Greenwashing on the Columbia

Houston-based NEXT wants to build a refinery at Port Westward, but locals have lost trust—for good reason.

NEXT: Empty Promises, Empty Pockets? 

NEXT Renewable Fuels, Inc. wants to build one of the largest “renewable” diesel refineries in the country in the middle of the Columbia River Estuary at Port Westward.

The problem? NEXT’s proposal is a greenwashed scheme that will cause more harm than good. If built, NEXT’s refinery would destroy over 100 acres of wetlands, harm local farms, and result in substantial climate-changing pollution. 

On top of all of this, NEXT has a habit of making empty promises and blatantly false statements to the local community, regulators, and investors. Here are a few reasons why NEXT cannot be trusted to build a 2.1 million gallon per day refinery at Port Westward. 

Shady Beginnings

Port Westward, NEXT, NXT, Fossil Fuel

Houston-based NEXT has a fraught history of unfinished projects and untrustworthy leadership.

  • NEXT’s backers were involved in a failed biodiesel facility in Odessa, Washington, and left behind a toxic cleanup site and unpaid bills and taxes.
  • The Port of Longview rejected a refinery proposal from NEXT’s backers after OPB published a detailed story about the failed biodiesel facility.
  • In 2020, NEXT’s president was arrested on child sex abuse charges in Texas and fired.

NEXT’s CEO Chris Efird is now front-and-center for the company, promising to deliver on strategies to secure more investments. 

NEXT’s Promise: NEXT planned to merge with a shell company to get listed on the stock exchange and earn $176 million in investment.

Reality: NEXT failed the major business merger and re-brand on November 1, 2023.

Building Mistrust

NEXT’s Promise: NEXT will not rely on long trains. 

NEXT assured locals and regulators that the refinery would primarily use ships to transport feedstock and finished product. 

In a January 2022 public meeting, former County Commissioner Henry Heimuller questioned NEXT directly about its rail yard plans. He explained how NEXT promised “over and over” that rail would be for “incidental use only” (at 1:25:10). 

NEXT’s promise not to significantly increase train traffic was key to securing support from Columbia County locals, whose farming operations, emergency services, and commutes are already burdened by delays from long trains in the area. 

Port Westward arial view of wetland  Paloma Ayaya

Reality: NEXT is pushing forward plans for a major rail yard that would accommodate 622 rail cars per week. 

NEXT’s current rail yard proposal displaced a local farmer. The County Board of Commissioners will decide on the contentious permit in March 2024. 

NEXT’s Promise: NEXT promises economic prosperity

Reality: NEXT recently asked the Port of Columbia County to defer monthly rent payments from $108,000 to $15,000 until “project approval” (61-66). As of February 2024, NEXT has not paid full rent on its property since November 2023


According to NEXT’s air permit from DEQ, the refinery will produce over one million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, using as much fracked gas annually as the city of Eugene

Feedstocks: fish grease or soybean oil? 

Diesel made from organic material that would otherwise become waste can be a truly low-carbon fuel. But making diesel from purpose-grown feedstocks like corn, soybean, and palm oil is much more carbon intensive. It also burdens our food systems and landscapes.

What will NEXT use to make its diesel?  

NEXT’s Promise:  NEXT talks a big game about making diesel fuel from fish guts and waste oils. 

Reality: NEXT’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission admit that NEXT intends to use 75% crop oils at the outset of the project (p. 106). 

Low-carbon feedstocks like fish grease and spent cooking oil are in high demand, making them expensive and difficult to obtain. “Most of the waste oils, fats, and greases that can be recovered economically are already being recovered and used in biodiesel and renewable diesel production or for other purposes.” (U.S. EPA, 2020)

NEXT’s Promise: The refinery will help Oregon reduce diesel particulates and greenhouse gas emissions.

Reality: In all likelihood, the fuel NEXT produces will be shipped to places like California, where regulations that require greater use of these fuels, and make them more expensive. 

If built, NEXT’s refinery will be powered by fracked gas and result in extensive local emissions from production and transport. 

Misleading Regulators, Investors, and Legislators 

Port Westward arial view of farmland  Paloma Ayaya

NEXT’s Statement: In a November 2022 investor presentation filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, NEXT claimed its local land use permits were “granted.” 

Reality: Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals invalidated NEXT’s land use permit the month prior. As of February 2024, NEXT still does not have this permit. 

NEXT’s Statement: NEXT mischaracterized its permitting progress to the Oregon Legislature in a March 9, 2023 presentation to the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. During the hearing, NEXT President Christopher Efird says that NEXT is "pretty much done completely" (21:19) and "...we have made it through the Oregon permitting process" (43:35, in direct response to Sen. Findley’s question). 

Reality: Nearly a year later, NEXT still has yet to receive several major permits. 

NEXT’s Statement: In a county land use hearing on January 10, 2024, NEXT’s president stated that it has “dozens of feedstock agreements,” when directly questioned about the company’s feedstock contracts. 

Reality: According to a recent SEC filing

  • NEXT’s key feedstock agreement with BP was terminated (p. 188) 
  • NEXT does not have any feedstock agreements or even “agreements to enter into agreements” (p. 184)
  • “NXT has no experience in either the construction of a renewal fuel refinery or facility or in the operation of a renewable fuel business, which may impair its ability to construct the NXT Projects or produce and sell renewable fuel and to negotiate contracts for the purchase or feedstock and the sale of fuel.” (p. 58)

Big Picture

Despite a laundry list of promises, NEXT’s refinery is far from a done deal. Oregon regulators should not put blind faith in a company that could easily give “renewable” fuels a bad reputation. 

To learn more about why Columbia Riverkeeper opposes the NEXT refinery, visit this FAQ.

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