Clean Air, Water, and Local Food Threatened by New Refinery at Port Westward

Local Farmer, Farm Protection Group, and River Advocates Challenge Rail Yard For Proposed Refinery at Port Westward


Local Farmer, Farm Protection Group, and River Advocates Challenge Rail Yard For Proposed Refinery at Port Westward 

Columbia County’s decision to approve a 400-car rail yard amid sensitive drainages, wetlands, and high-value farmland drew criticism from Oregon’s lead land use agency and opposition from local farmers and regional advocacy groups.

April 13, 2022 (St. Helens, OR) — Columbia Riverkeeper, 1000 Friends of Oregon, and local mint farmer Mike Seely filed a legal challenge to Columbia County’s controversial approval of a 400-car rail yard for Houston-based NEXT Renewables LLC’s proposed diesel refinery at Port Westward. Roughly two-thirds of those who testified to Columbia County’s Board of Commissioners stated strong opposition to the project’s location and impacts.

“I see extraordinary opposition to this project from my neighbors and the Beaver Drainage District, all of whom may be severely impacted by NEXT’s deeply flawed plan,” said Mike Seely, a mint farmer at Port Westward. ”NEXT would have to relocate sensitive infrastructure that supports 5,600 acres of active working farmland, including 300 acres of blueberries, 600 acres of mint, and numerous other crops and livestock. NEXT’s proposed refinery should be a non-starter, particularly where it proposes a major rail yard on agricultural land.”

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) also criticized NEXT’s proposal, noting its “controversial nature” and deficiencies in NEXT’s application to build a rail facility. 

”The County’s decision fails to follow Oregon’s land use planning program, which requires an analysis of this proposed use and its potential impacts on specific farming practices used in the surrounding area.  We have heard the significant concerns of area farmers. The County’s failure to address these puts at risk many acres of irreplaceable farm land,” said Mary Kyle McCurdy, Deputy Director of 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Opponents raised concerns about the track record of NEXT’s backers and the dramatic increase in the size and use of its proposed rail yard.

“NEXT Energy’s proposed 400-car rail yard is a major bait-and-switch for a company that once promised to avert long trains and only use marine shipping for its feedstocks,” said Dan Serres, Conservation Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “NEXT’s plan is reckless: destroying wetlands, building on liquefiable soils, exacerbating diesel spill risks, and relocating sensitive drainage infrastructure against the wishes of the Beaver Drainage Improvement District. This diesel refinery proposal relies on the wrong site, poor planning, and company backers with a checkered past.”

The company officials behind NEXT have a troubling track record, including involvement in a failed biofuels facility in Odessa, Wash., that resulted in a $400,000 Superfund cleanup.

Under Oregon law, the appeal will be decided by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, which would likely issue a ruling in several months. Columbia Riverkeeper, 1000 Friends of Oregon, and Mike Seely are being represented by the non-profit Crag Law Center.

The NEXT Refinery is the wrong place, wrong plan, and wrong company.

Join us in telling DEQ to deny NEXT’s request for permission to pollute Oregon’s air.


NEXT Refinery Threatens Air, Water, and Local Food at Port Westward

Port Westward is a critical bend in the Columbia River Estuary. It’s home to family residences, sensitive salmon habitat, world-class blueberry and mint crops, and a Buddhist monastery. Now, a Houston-based company called NEXT Renewables LLC wants to build a major renewable diesel refinery there, too. Oregon DEQ is accepting public comments on the proposed refinery’s draft air pollution permit until May 26, 2022.

The refinery faces strong opposition from neighbors who rely on clean air and water for their homes and livelihoods. The draft permit shows that the refinery would release a significant amount of hazardous air pollutants, particulate matter, and smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the community.

Take Action To Save Port Westward:
  1. Click here to urge DEQ to deny NEXT’s proposed permit.
  2. DEQ will hold a public hearing on April 27, 2022, at 6pm. Sign up to attend the virtual public hearing on Zoom and save the date. 
  3. Click here for a quick  guide highlighting a few key reasons why DEQ should deny NEXT permission to pollute the air at Port Westward. The guide has more details on how to testify in writing or at the upcoming hearing on April 27.

While renewable diesel has potential to reduce impacts from vehicles and equipment that are hard to electrify and that burn diesel, the NEXT development at Port Westward represents a stark case of poor site selection, worse planning, and untrustworthy project backers. Wrong place, wrong plan, wrong company.

Let’s keep up the pressure to protect Port Westward, a critical bend in the Columbia River Estuary.

More resources to learn details about NEXT’s impacts:

Sign up for Columbia Riverkeeper’s email alerts or follow us on social media for updates and ways to engage.

  1. Check out our air permit comment guide.
  2. For a deeper dive into other issues about NEXT, check out our updated FAQ.
  3. Watch this eight-minute video produced by local neighbors to the project:

Support Our Work

Columbia Riverkeeper joined with mint farmer Mike Seely and 1000 Friends of Oregon in challenging Columbia County's approval of land permits for the NEXT project to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). Donate today to help support this effort!