Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee has stated he is against the planned methanol production facility in Kalama, reversing past support of the roughly $2 billion plan.

During a May 8 bill signing for legislation that bans hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and natural gas in Washington state, Inslee delivered remarks on both the Kalama plant and a project in Tacoma, stating that he “cannot in good conscience support” either project given recent research on climate change.

“In the early days of both projects, I said they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we transition to cleaner energy sources,” Inslee said in a prepared statement, “but I am no longer convinced that locking in these multidecadal infrastructure projects are sufficient to accomplishing what’s necessary.”

Inslee said that “science is continuing to emerge” regarding the window for action to stop the effects of climate change, adding that “we don’t have the luxury of a 50-year transition phase.”

Although Inslee said his stance did not change the regulatory process for projects like the one planned for Kalama, he would be working with regulatory agency directors in the coming weeks “to discuss the way forward.”

Northwest Innovation Works, the company behind the Kalama plant, responded to Inslee’s statement in their own release, stating they were confident the project would be approved by the relevant state regulators. 

“Our project aligns with Washington state’s commitment to carbon reduction,” Northwest Innovation Works General Counsel Kent Caputo said in the statement. He reiterated the company’s stance that the methanol, produced from methane gas, would be used to produce plastics, though recently that notion has come into question as the potential for the methanol to be used as a fuel in China has been brought to light.

Northwest Innovation Works CEO Simon Zhang reiterated the steps the company has taken to ensure less of an environmental impact in its methanol production, including the use of “ultra-low emissions technology,” not discharging any liquid into the Columbia River as well as mitigation of all greenhouse gases produced in the state by the project.

“We know that Governor Inslee’s decision today isn’t a message to stop innovating,” Zhang said in the statement, adding, “We are dedicated to using our product for materials production, not for fuel.” 

Members of trade and economic development groups also came out in support of the project following the governor’s disavowal.

“I remember when Gov. Inslee came to Cowlitz County and announced his support for this project,” Cowlitz Economic Development Council President Ted Sprague said in Northwest Innovation Works’ statement. He questioned whether the change in tune from the governor had anything to do with his announcement of a U.S. presidential run earlier this year.

“I worry that Jay’s interests here are more tied to his personal presidential ambition than what the science says and what is right for this state,” Sprague said.

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