20th District Lawmakers Critique Inslee Over Halted Kalama Methanol Plant


Lawmakers from the 20th Legislative District have weighed in on the recent calling-off of what would’ve been the world’s largest methanol plant, slated for the Columbia River.

This month, Northwest Innovation Works’ officially ended its lease with the Port of Kalama, citing the January denial of a key permit by the state Department of Ecology, something the company chalked up to “unclear and unpredictable” regulations. Some environmentalist groups have since rejoiced, pointing to the 4.8 million tons of carbon emissions the facility would be tied to annually.

In a statement, Centralia Republican and freshman lawmaker Peter Abbarno said he was “extremely disappointed, not with Northwest Innovation Works, but with Governor (Jay) Inslee and his state agencies, who have continued to move the goalpost on this project, making it impossible for this plant to be built.”

The project, Abbarno said, would’ve created over 1,000 union construction jobs as well as 200 permanent family-wage jobs. He lambasted Inslee for choosing “extreme green policies over labor, working families and family-wage jobs.”

Senate Minority Leader John Braun, also of Centralia, offered a similar sentiment, condemning Inslee’s “quick flip-flop” on the project in 2019.

“The economic boom seen in the Puget Sound area for most of the past decade never reached this part of the state,” he said, adding that “the promise of good-paying jobs in this part of Washington has been sacrificed on the alter of environmental activism.”

Inslee was initially supportive of the methanol plant, but changed course in 2019 — something critiqued by the Port of Kalama as well.

Back then, Inslee said he was “no longer convinced that locking in these multidecadal infrastructure projects” would be sufficient to achieve long-term climate objectives.

The Department of Ecology said the plant would produce less greenhouse gas emissions than other sources of methanol, but it wouldn’t decrease emissions.

The permit denial was a victory for some environmentalist groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Washington Environmental Council, Columbia Riverkeeper, Earthjustice and The Sierra Club. In a joint statement, the groups called it a “stunning climate victory” at the heels of years of activism.


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