Government failed Cowlitz County on methanol project, say senators

OLYMPIA… The state senators representing Cowlitz County say the loss of a proposed $2.3 billion methanol plant at the Port of Kalama is another example of state government being out of touch with the needs of families and employers across the state.

“The leaders at the port, the people at Northwest Innovation Works, and everyone else who supported this effort over the past seven years did all they could to make it happen. Government failed them when it started caring more about outside interests, instead of listening to the people of Cowlitz County,” said Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia. He serves the 20th Legislative District, which takes in Kalama and much of central Cowlitz County.

“Once you get beyond King County, it’s a different world,” said Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview. Wilson represents the 19th Legislative District, which runs from Longview to Aberdeen and the coast. “People are interested in a strong economy. They’re interested in high-paying industrial jobs. And the biggest obstacle is Olympia’s attitude problem.”

The Kalama project was proposed in 2014, after talks between Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration and the company behind the project, NW Innovation Works. It would have converted natural gas from Canada into methanol for shipment to Asia. Inslee did an about-face in May 2019, publicly opposing the project after announcing he would run for president on a climate-change agenda. Early this year, the Department of Ecology denied a permit necessary for the project to continue.

Wilson, who serves concurrently as a Port of Longview commissioner, said Washington is fast gaining a reputation as a place where major industrial projects go to die. “What we’ve learned with this case and so many others is that the dreams of communities like mine can be crushed by the whims of bureaucrats and the governor. The message to anyone who wants to build a new industrial facility in Washington state is don’t even bother.”

“The people of Cowlitz County see how the state went out of its way to stack the deck against this project,” said Braun. “Ecology included a ‘global net reduction’ of carbon emissions in its evaluation of the Kalama proposal, when that was purposely left out of the new cap-and-tax law on carbon emissions?

“Everyone wants to have clean air, and clean water. It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue in our state. But what about the people who are more worried about being able to support their families? They want a fair shot at prosperity. They want a state government that addresses the real needs of our communities – like the shortage of good, stable, family-wage jobs, especially in rural Washington. What they’re getting is something far less,” Braun added.

“The sad ending to the Kalama methanol project doesn’t offer much hope for future ventures that don’t fit with a particular political agenda.”