Coalition Spotlight: Power Past Fracked Gas

Columbia Riverkeeper Partnered with Over 30 Organizations to Deliver a Powerful Argument Against the Kalama Methanol Refinery

In the midst of a harrowing, devastating September, a broad coalition of over 30 community organizations worked together to highlight the importance of stopping the world’s largest methanol refinery in Kalama, Washington. Representing tens of thousands of people across Oregon and Washington, the coalition hammered home the message that Northwest Innovation Works’ proposed fracked gas-to-methanol refinery in Kalama would be a climate disaster and a major polluter, undercutting Washington’s clean energy goals.

Broad statements like this one don’t come together overnight. Columbia Riverkeeper often works in coalitions, and the Power Past Fracked Gas coalition is a growing coalition of climate, health, faith, environmental justice and community-led organizations who are pushing back on projects like the Kalama refinery, the Jordan Cove LNG project, and the Tacoma LNG proposal. For years, organizations like ours have stitched together common goals and efforts to resist an onslaught of fracked gas projects in our region. Columbia Riverkeeper’s Dan Serres has served as the Co-Director of the Coalition, but the coalition relies heavily on leadership from organizations in each community where the major fracked gas struggles are taking place.

We took our message about Kalama directly to Ecology this month, with voices pouring in from across Washington and Oregon. In mid-September, the Coalition organized hundreds of people to testify for hours of online testimony. During four separate hearings, spanning 11 hours of online and phone testimony, our coalition members offered passionate, detailed testimony arguing for the denial of the Kalama methanol proposal. It takes real dedication to sit through hours of zoom meetings to give a 2-minute oral testimony, but this is precisely what Kalama residents and their allies all across the Pacific Northwest did. 

Why did so many people take the time to stand up for a little town of 2,000 people? They spent the time developing testimony and weighing in because the stakes were visible and terrifying: many testified as smoke filtered into their homes while fires and evacuations impacted dozens of Northwest communities. The Kalama project would generate 4.6 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year for 40 years, an unconscionable commitment to climate-changing pollution in the midst of a burgeoning climate crisis.

How did so many people get the word to participate? Coalition partners for multiple organizations like Sierra Club, NoMethanol360 in Kalama, the Lower Columbia Stewardship Community in Longview, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington Environmental Council, and 350 PDX organized webinars, phonebanks, mailers, and social media videos to get the word out about the project. Working together, we made the best of our chance to send a clear message to Ecology to deny the project, despite difficult circumstances.

Columbia Riverkeeper is proud to stand with these organizations and many others as we continue to urge Governor Inslee and the Washington Department of Ecology to say no to the Kalama project once and for all.