Northwest Environmental Defense Center

Northwest Defense is the Northwest Environmental Defense Center's blog (and newsletter). Learn about NEDC's latest work, current issues related to air and water quality, and conservation measures in the Pacific Northwest.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

5 ways Northwest Innovation Works' proposed methanol export facility will change our landscape

By Marla Nelson, Staff Attorney

Northwest Innovation Works has proposed a methanol manufacturing, storage, and marine export facility for the Port of Kalama. The Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County are preparing an analysis of the likely impacts of the project under Washington's State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). NEDC and Columbia Riverkeeper submitted comments on December 4, 2014 suggesting the Port complete a full and accurate scope for its SEPA analysis.

Given the substantial amount of proposed infrastructure construction, the methanol export facility will dramatically change the landscape of the region. The following lists 5 critical ways the project will change the landscape of the Pacific Northwest:

(1) Additional marine vessel traffic along the Columbia River

Northwest Innovation Works' project envisions a new deep draft marine terminal on the Columbia River capable of receiving 3 to 6 ships per year. Additional marine vessel traffic will result in greater shoreline erosion, increased turbidity, greater risk of introducing invasive species in ballast water, more vessel strikes of large marine mammals, additional stranding of juvenile salmon on beaches from large wakes, and increased risk of oil spills or accidents.

(2) Greater air pollution from "super" greenhouse gases

Emissions from normal methanol production operations include nonmethane hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter. Additional emissions will result from the extraction and transportation of liquid natural gas. Methane that escapes from natural gas oil wells, pipelines, and storage is a major concern. Current estimates vary widely, but some studies suggest as much as 8 percent of the methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, valves, and gathering centers. As a "super" greenhouse gas, methane emissions may have major impacts on climate change that negate any benefit from reduced carbon emissions.

(3) Reduced water quality, with subsequent adverse impacts to aquatic life

Water withdrawals during construction, in-water dredging activities to construct the marine vessel terminal, stormwater runoff from the terminal facilities during both construction and operation, and discharges of pollutants from day-to-day operations will contribute to reduced water quality in the Columbia River. The Columbia River is home to significant recovery efforts for listed salmon. Reduced water quality from this project is likely to reverse much of those efforts.

(4) Increased risk of oil spills or accidents

Greater marine vessel traffic, construction of a natural gas pipeline across Cowlitz County, and construction of storage tanks at the Port will increase the risk of an oil spill or pipeline rupture. This increased risk poses a danger to public safety and the natural resources of the area.

(5) Induced growth regionally and nationally

Construction of the methanol production plant, distribution pipeline, and new deep draft marine terminal facility will likely induce growth at the Port and surrounding region. Economic development is a good thing for Cowlitz County. Recognizing the changes that will result is also good for future planning and understanding the implications of a major development like Northwest Innovation Works has proposed.

Our comments address in detail additional adverse impacts that are likely to result from the proposed methanol export facility.


  1. Taking risk is not bad as long as you know that you can handle it right and make sure you don't regret at the end. Visit my site for more information and thanks for your wonderful article it did helped me a lot.

  2. We do not need this facility, it will not reduce the state or governments commitment to gas reduction. For the benefit of china? No Thanks!