BREAKING: Court Voids Kalama Methanol Permits

Army Corps Must Prepare Full, Transparent Environmental Review

On November 24, 2020, a court threw out key federal permits for the Kalama Methanol Refinery issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Associated Press called the legal ruling “the latest setback for the [methanol] project.” 

Specifically, the court:

1. Struck down the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act permits that Northwest Innovation Works needs to construct the proposed methanol export terminal; 

2. Found that the Army Corps illegally ignored the global climate pollution, and new regional fracked gas pipeline construction, caused by the proposal;

3. Ordered the Army Corps to prepare a full, transparent Environmental Impact Statement before making any new decisions about the Kalama Methanol Refinery.

The decision means that Northwest Innovation Works cannot begin construction, and federal agencies cannot provide subsidies to the project—for now.  

Other important decisions about the controversial Kalama Methanol Refinery lie ahead.  The Washington Department of Ecology and the Washington Department of Transportation are currently considering whether to issue necessary state-level permits for the proposal. Please take a moment to help finish this campaign and secure a truly clean future for the Columbia River. Sign this petition urging Governor Inslee, the Washington Department of Ecology, and Washington Department of Transportation to deny permits for the Kalama refinery and pipeline. 

We appreciate the excellent legal work of Earthjustice who represented Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council, Center for Biological Diversity, and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility in this case.

We are fighting to stop the world’s largest proposed fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery.


Federal Court Rejects Permits for Kalama Methanol Refinery 

Army Corps must redo environmental analysis

Nov. 23, 2020 (Tacoma, Wash.)Today, a federal district court vacated the federal permits required for the Kalama Methanol Refinery, sending the proposed project back to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for a full, transparent environmental review. The Court found the Corps had failed to consider the cumulative impact of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the proposal and ignored the new regional pipeline the project would require. The Court also found that the Corps illegally failed to consider the methanol refinery’s costs to the public—even while the Corps relied on its purported benefits. Due to multiple failures, the Court invalidated federal Clean Water Act permits for the methanol refinery.

“The Corps’ permit approval violated the law,” said Paulo Palugod, an Earthjustice attorney representing the parties in court. “Kalama Methanol would release at least 2.6 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases into our air each and every year for 40 years, yet the Corps thought it could skate by on a limited analysis of only a piece of the project. The Court said no.”    

Washington Environmental Council, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Columbia Riverkeeper brought this legal challenge in the federal district court for the Western District of Washington. The groups are represented by nonprofit law firm Earthjustice. 

"This project would do tremendous harm to our community, our river and to our climate," said Sally Keely, a resident of Kalama and a math professor. "We applaud this court decision, and we urge our state and federal leaders to reject this huge polluter in our town."

“Because of today’s ruling, the Biden Administration will oversee a transparent study of the climate pollution and fracked gas pipeline construction triggered by Northwest Innovation Works’ misguided proposal.” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “Problems identified in the court’s decision also highlight why Governor Inslee and the State of Washington should reject the methanol refinery.”

“Washington simply cannot build a clean energy future by investing in dirty energy. The urgency of our climate crisis demands the highest level of scrutiny based on science and impact—this project would have harmed the health of our planet for today and generations to come,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. 

“It’s absurd to think that a massive fracked-gas refinery wouldn’t pose a catastrophic risk to the fragile Columbia River ecosystem,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These dirty fossil fuel monstrosities only accelerate climate change, and we can’t continue to allow companies to pretend otherwise. We’re relieved the court rejected the permits for the project, but rather than send it back to the drawing board, state and federal leaders should pull the plug now.”

"This fracked gas-to-methanol facility would be a disaster for water, wildlife, and the climate, and it should never have received federal approval," said Sierra Club campaign representative Stephanie Hillman. "We will continue to fight to ensure that this dirty, dangerous facility is never built." 



Our team of attorneys and community organizers are hard at work, responding to a flurry of federal actions to gut environmental and public health protections.