Board hits brakes on $1.8 billion methanol plant planned for Kalama

The state Shoreline Hearings Board found fault with permits for the planned $1.8 billion methanol plant and called for more analysis of greenhouse-gas emissions.

A state hearings board has found flaws in an environmental-impact study used to gain key permits for a proposed $1.8 billion methanol plant in Kalama and ordered additional reviews.

The state Shoreline Hearings Board found that the study failed to do a complete analysis of greenhouse-gas emissions that will be produced by the plant, and ordered Cowlitz County and the port of Kalama to conduct additional research.

The decision was triggered by a permit appeal filed by environmental groups that had opposed the project to use North American natural gas as a feedstock to produce methanol, a chemical that would be shipped to China for use in the plastics industry.

The order is a setback for the developer, NW Innovation Works, a joint venture formed by CAS Holdings, a commercial offshoot of the Chinese Academy of Science. The project has been pitched as a cleaner alternative to producing plastics from coal-based methanol produced in China, and has received considerable political support in Washington state.

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Meanwhile, environmental groups praised the board’s decision.

In the permit that was found to be flawed by the board, the methanol plant was estimated to produce up to 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year. That amount is equal to just over 1 percent of the state’s current total emissions.

The board, in its decision, asked for additional analysis that would include estimates of greenhouse-gas emissions from the production and transportation of the natural gas used to produce the methanol.

The emissions that result from natural-gas production include methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.

Vee Godley,  president of NW…

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