Despite DEQ’s decision, we will continue to stand with the community at Port Westward and its allies throughout the region in fighting the ill-conceived NEXT project.
Community expresses outrage as DEQ approves air pollution permit for refinery at Port Westward
On August 30, 2022, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a disappointing decision to grant an air pollution permit for a proposed diesel refinery at Port Westward. The project, proposed by Houston-based NEXT Energy, would produce hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel each year and store over 1 million barrels of diesel, jet fuel, and feedstock at Port Westward in the Lower Columbia River. Port Westward is an area near Clatskanie, Oregon, with unstable peat soil, wetlands, nearby homes and farms, and a Buddhist monastery.
Despite DEQ’s decision, we will continue to stand with the community at Port Westward and its allies throughout the region in fighting the ill-conceived NEXT project. Columbia Riverkeeper has already joined with 1000 Friends of Oregon to challenge a land use permit for the NEXT refinery’s rail yard.
Take Action: Sign the petition urging local, state, and federal officials to reject additional permits for the NEXT refinery project.
So far, DEQ has downplayed the air pollution impacts of the massive proposed diesel refinery—including impacts related to the project’s large fracked gas use and its proposed 400-foot flare stack. However, DEQ still must decide whether to issue key permits regarding the proposal’s impact on water resources. In the coming months, we will need your help to hold DEQ and other agencies accountable for protecting the people and environment threatened by NEXT’s pollution.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community Disappointed as DEQ Downplays Air Pollution Impacts of New, Massive Diesel Refinery at Port Westward
Portland, Ore. (August 30, 2022)—Today the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a decision to approve an air pollution permit for the proposed NEXT renewable diesel refinery at Port Westward. The overwhelming majority of those who testified at the DEQ hearing from the Port Westward community spoke in opposition to the project. Many argued that DEQ was downplaying the community’s concerns about smog-forming and toxic air pollution from the NEXT refinery, impacts from its 400-foot flare stack, and the project’s significant fracked gas use.
"Our community deserves to be heard, and so far DEQ is ignoring us, dismissing our concerns, and irresponsibly giving priority to the interests of a huge refinery,” said Brandon Schilling, a farmer near the proposed refinery. “DEQ is responsible to protect us, not a Houston-based company with a poor track record. Shouldn’t our perspectives matter, as those who would breathe NEXT’s pollution and live in the shadow of this refinery and its flare stack? Though we are rural, agriculturally-based, and far from DEQ’s headquarters in Portland, we can see NEXT’s overwhelming influence on DEQ’s decision from here.”
“The proposed refinery would pose a major pollution risk for the Port Westward community as well as those downwind and downstream from the refinery and rail yard,” said Dan Serres, Conservation Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “DEQ should think twice about approving a polluting refinery—with major spill risks and air emissions—in the Columbia River Estuary.”
DEQ acknowledged the refinery would generate over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution each year, consume large amounts of fracked gas, and generate smog-forming pollution. Despite concerns raised by local residents, including a nearby Zen Buddhist Monastery, DEQ considered the project a minor source of emissions.
“DEQ is entrusting our community’s health and safety to a company whose backers left a toxic mess behind at a failed biofuels facility in Odessa, WA,” said Carroll Sweet, a Columbia County resident and member of Envision Columbia County. “DEQ has additional decisions to make, and we urge DEQ to rethink its approach in the future, carefully considering water pollution risks from adding more than 1 million barrels of diesel, jet fuel, and feedstock onto liquefiable soils next to the Lower Columbia River.”
"The refinery's volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions will contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (also known as smog) in the area," said Dr. Theodora Tsongas, member of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. "Ozone is a potent lung irritant and increases the risk of exacerbation of asthma, the most prevalent chronic disease in children in the U.S."
The future of the project remains uncertain. The Army Corps of Engineers will conduct an EIS that must consider all of the combined impacts of the project, with a draft EIS expected in early 2023. Additionally, project opponents are challenging a Columbia County permit for NEXT’s proposed 400-car rail yard to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). DEQ cannot legally issue a permit for the project if LUBA remands or reverses the County’s approval of NEXT’s controversial 400-car rail yard on agricultural land.
Sign the petition urging local, state, and federal officials to reject additional permits for the NEXT refinery project.