The Washington Department of Ecology has approved a shoreline permit and granted water quality certification tied to a proposed project to manufacture and export methanol at the Port of Kalama. These are two in a series of required permits from local, state and federal agencies needed to move the proposal forward.
The shoreline permit sets stringent conditions that the Port of Kalama and Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) – the two entities seeking to construct and operate the industrial facility – must meet to protect the shoreline ecosystem and water quality while requiring site-specific mitigation to offset environmental impacts.
Cowlitz County and the port completed the final environmental review for the project in September 2016.
NWIW and the port sought the shoreline conditional use permit from Cowlitz County because some proposed construction activities and related dredging work are located in and along the Columbia River. After the county approved the permit, state law requires Ecology to then evaluate the permit application.
If NWIW and the port receive all the local, state and federal approvals needed to move the methanol plant forward, the project would have to be built and operated in a way that mitigates environmental impacts, reduces greenhouse gases, and meets state law to protect shoreline areas while allowing important water-dependent uses.
Some conditions in Ecology’s shoreline permit require NWIW and the port to:
- Mitigate greenhouse gas emissions that originate from the methanol plant, consistent with the state clean air rule.
- Put on-site dredge disposal standards in place, if needed, to protect water quality.
- Identify and set aside the public access area through a deed restriction or other appropriate method to protect the shoreline environment.
- Revise the project’s on-site mitigation plan to fully mitigate other shoreline impacts.
While the methanol plant would avoid wastewater discharges to the adjacent Columbia River by relying on a system that reuses manufacturing process water, the facility would emit up to 1 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually to produce methanol from natural gas.
To offset the greenhouse gases, the shoreline permit requires NWIW and the port to reduce or offset plant emissions by 1.7 percent per year beginning the first full year of operation – and continue to reduce or offset them at this rate until leveling off in 2035.
The company can achieve this by reducing emissions at the facility, purchasing carbon credits, or by investing in or creating emission reduction projects in accordance with a mitigation plan approved by Ecology.
The new methanol plant and terminal would be built on about 100 acres of industrial-zoned land located at the north end of the port’s marine industrial park. Once in operation, the facility would be capable of manufacturing 10,000 metric tons of methanol a day from natural gas.
Under the state Shoreline Management Act and Cowlitz County’s shoreline master program, the methanol plant and marine terminal are considered allowable and legitimate water-dependent activities as long as the project can meet environmental protection standards.
In a related project, Northwest Pipeline is seeking to construct and operate a new 3.1-mile section of pipeline to supply natural gas to the Kalama methanol plant. Since the new section of pipeline would cross several streams and wetlands, Ecology requires Northwest Pipeline to first avoid negatively affecting water quality or put measures in place to offset any unavoidable adverse impacts.
Both the shoreline conditional use permit and water quality certification can be appealed to the state Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office.
Before the methanol plant can be built, NWIW and the port will also need to get a construction stormwater permit from Ecology. This permit as well as additional local, state and federal permits has yet to be issued.