Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 2, 2020


Dan Serres, Columbia Riverkeeper, (503) 890-2441,
Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054,

Analysis: Proposed Washington Methanol Refinery Would Produce Massive Pollution

Kalama Refinery Would Be World’s Largest Gas-fired Plant

LACEY, Wash.— A new environmental analysis by the Washington Department of Ecology of the proposed fracked gas-to-methanol refinery in Kalama, Washington found the plant would rank as one of the state’s largest sources of climate pollution if constructed.

The analysis states the methanol refinery would use up to 320 million cubic feet of fracked gas per day, more than all of Washington’s gas-fired power plants combined. The Department further concluded the methanol refinery would cause 4.6 million tons of climate pollution every year for 40 years.

The new analysis sided with environmental and public health groups on two key issues. First, the Department determined the Kalama refinery would cause more methanol to be burned as fuel in China. Second, it found that project backers previously lowballed the amount of upstream methane pollution the proposed facility would cause.

“For years, backers of the Kalama methanol project tried to hide the tremendous amount of greenhouse gas pollution that this refinery would cause,” said Sally Keely, a math professor and resident of Kalama. “By driving increased fracking and pushing consumption of fracked fossil fuels, this refinery would dramatically undermine Washington’s climate and clean energy goals.”

“I’m a frequent fisherman on the Columbia River, and Kalama is my home,” said John Flynn, a Kalama resident. “The impacts of climate change, ocean warming and acidification have had a significant negative impact on these fish. I believe that if the methanol refinery were built it would only add to and compound these climate impacts, further negatively impacting these salmon and steelhead. In all honesty, I cannot see myself sitting in my boat in the shadow of the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery.”

“Northwest Innovation Works can't hide from the massive climate impact of their dirty proposed fracked gas-to-methanol facility,” said Sept Gernez, organizer with the Sierra Club Washington State Chapter. “This project would be disastrous for our communities and our climate, and it's time to reject it once and for all.”

Unfortunately the Department of Ecology’s draft analysis still includes the speculative and unenforceable theory that methanol made in Kalama could replace methanol made elsewhere with higher carbon emissions.

“The urgency of our climate crisis demands the highest level of scrutiny, and we cannot allow massive new fracked gas projects to move forward based on speculation and the faint hope of theoretical emission reductions,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. “This analysis confirms what we have already known — that this dangerous project poses potentially catastrophic climate impacts and has no place in Washington’s clean energy future.”

“This massive fossil fuel project poses catastrophic threats to our climate and imperiled wildlife,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Slapping down a huge refinery here to ship methanol to Asia is just a terrible idea. It would hurt the climate and do irreparable harm to the Columbia River ecosystem. We’ll keep working to ensure this destructive project never moves forward.”

The Department is planning to hold virtual hearings on the project on Sept. 17 and Sept. 22. Ecology will accept written comments on the draft analysis until Oct. 2.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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