“US Judge Voids Permits For Columbia River Methanol Plant”

“SEATTLE — A judge on Monday voided permits needed for a massive methanol plant on the Columbia River in southwestern Washington, agreeing with conservation groups that the project needs a more thorough environmental review.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had granted the permits for the construction of an export facility that is part of a $2 billion NW Innovation Works plant proposed in Kalama. The plant would take natural gas from Canada and convert it into methanol, which would be shipped to China to make olefins — compounds used in everything from fabrics and contact lenses to iPhones and medical equipment.

Conservation groups including Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and Washington Environmental Council challenged the permits in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, saying the Corps of Engineers conducted only a summary review that failed to account for the project’s full environmental effects.

U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan in Tacoma agreed, ordering the agency to conduct a full environmental impact statement as required by federal law. He also told the Corps to assess whether the project is in the public interest, but he rejected their argument that further review was needed under the Endangered Species Act.”

Gene Johnson reports for the Associated Press November 24, 2020.