Kalama Manufacturing & Marine Export Facility

In 2017, TGG was retained by Earthjustice to review and provide expert testimony regarding the environmental and economic impacts of Kalama Manufacturing and Marine Export Facility (Kalama). Kalama is a proposed petrochemical refinery in Port of Kalama, Washington, using large quantities of fracked gas to produce methanol. At full capacity, Kalama would be the world’s largest methanol facility. It would produce up to 3.6 million metric tons of methanol per year, for export to China as feedstock for plastic production. This project remains highly controversial due to significant environmental and health risks, and has attracted widespread public opposition in the Pacific Northwest.

Ian Goodman, with in-depth participation of Brigid Rowan, authored a Declaration regarding Kalama’s environmental and economic impacts. The Declaration provides testimony on the failure of the Environmental Impact Statement to adequately consider GHG emissions, as well as a number of other potential environmental and economic impacts related to the project. These other impacts include possible need to expand the regional pipeline system. The Declaration of Ian Goodman was filed in August 2017 in support of a legal brief by Earthjustice before the Shorelines Hearings Board for the State of Washington on behalf of Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity.

In September 2017, the Shoreline Hearings Board issued an Order on Motions for Partial Summary Judgment, in which the Board reached the same conclusion as Earthjustice and its expert witness, Ian Goodman: that the analysis in the FEIS concerning Kalama’s GHG emissions was deficient. The Board then remanded the permits to the County and the Port for further analysis and denied approval for key permits for the development and operation of the project.

In May 2019, Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, stated that he “cannot in good conscience” support the construction of the Kalama due to climate impacts related to GHG emissions.

Building on the successful 2017 litigation (and TGG’s Declaration) that forced the preparation of a supplemental environmental analysis, Earthjustice (on behalf of a coalition of local and national organizations) continues to oppose the project based on climate impacts due to GHG emissions.

In late November 2020, the US District Court in Tacoma rejected federal permits for Kalama, sending the project back to the US Army Corps of Engineers for a full and transparent environmental review. The substantive issues that motivated the Court’s ruling included failure to consider upstream GHGs and other environmental impacts from gas production and transmission, as well as possible need to expand the regional pipeline system. These issues were also raised in the Goodman Declaration and by Earthjustice at the Shoreline Hearings Board, which resulted in a victory for our clients at the state level in 2017.

In January 2021, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) denied another key permit for Kalama: a Shoreline Conditional Use permit. Ecology’s denial was also based on the significant GHG emissions from the facility, as well a determination that the project would be have a significant negative impact of Washington’s shorelines and the public interest. Environmental groups throughout the Northwest (including TGG’s clients, Earthjustice and Columbia Riverkeeper) applauded the decision.

In February 2021, project proponents appealed Ecology’s decision. Washington’s Shoreline Hearings Board is expected to hear the appeal in summer 2021. Ecology’s decision has a strong evidentiary basis, consistent with TGG’s initial conclusions regarding the EIS’s failure to adequately consider GHGs. Moreover, conservation groups, and in particular, Earthjustice and Columbia Riverkeeper are expected to support Ecology’s decision before the Board.

As of early summer 2021, the US Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued the full EIS. Kalama continues to face delays, denials of key state and federal permits and strong public opposition.

UPDATE June 11, 2021: Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW), the developers of the Kalama project, officially abandoned the project and notified the Port of Kalama of its lease termination, ending its seven-year effort to build a $2.3 billion methanol plant at the port.

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Crown Point overlooking Columbia River at sunset