Conservation Issues

Oppose the Massive Fracked Gas Refinery at Kalama

Comment Period extended to Oct 9

The fracked gas industry wants to build the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery in Kalama. The proposed refinery would consume a staggering amount of fracked gas, more than all of Washington’s gas-fired power plants combined. The project would convert the fracked gas to methanol, which would be shipped overseas to be burned as fuel or used as feedstock to make plastics.

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has released a new Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to address the climate impacts of the proposed plant. The SEIS explains that the refinery would cause a staggering 4.6 million tons of climate pollution every year for 40 years. It would contribute to a significant global increase in greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions would undercut Washington’s efforts to move towards a clean energy economy.

The SEIS reveals what the project’s backers have long denied: that the refinery would cause more methanol to be burned as fuel in China and result in significant methane pollution from fracking. The methanol refinery would quickly become Washington’s largest climate polluter by 2025. It would use more fracked gas than all of Washington’s gas-fired power plants combined. In addition, up to 6 tankers per month would transport methanol to China, adding to the total greenhouse gas emissions of this facility.

The Kalama project will drive fracking and methane pollution. Because of its enormous demand for fracked gas, the proposed refinery would be responsible for increased fracking and the methane pollution that fracking causes. Because methane escapes during the fracking process, this “upstream” pollution will exceed one million tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year, using even the most conservative estimates of methane leakage.

Combustion of methanol from the Kalama project will lead to a large “downstream” source of greenhouse gas pollution. Although the proponents tried for years to claim that no one would ever burn the methanol produced in Kalama, the SEIS shows that the Kalama methanol refinery would lead to more methanol being burned as fuel in China.

Unfortunately, the SEIS also relies on speculative mitigation and an unenforceable market analysis to prop up this dirty, climate-wrecking proposal. The SEIS does not offer any proof for its theory that the Kalama plant will displace worse sources of pollution in China.

You can weigh in against this fracked gas project! The comment period closes Oct. 2. You can use Ecology’s online comment form or sign a petition with Columbia Riverkeeper.

 By Susan Saul

Federal Judge Rules Administration’s Bird-Killing Policy is Illegal

After Victory, Our Work Is Not Yet Done

In a major victory for the National Audubon Society and other conservation groups, a federal judge has overturned the Trump administration’s unprecedented attack on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and restored its longstanding protections for birds. The court ruled that the MBTA does protect birds from industrial hazards, also known as “incidental take,” upholding the most effective bird protection law of our time.

U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni ruled on August 11, 2020, that the legal opinion which serves as the basis for the Trump administration rollback of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not align with the intent and language of the 100-year-old law. In her ruling, Judge Caproni found that the policy “runs counter to the purpose of the MBTA to protect migratory bird populations” and is “contrary to the plain meaning of the MBTA”.

But our work is not yet done.

As definitive as the court’s opinion is, the practical effect in the short term may be minimal.  The question of how broadly the MBTA will be applied is far from resolved.  It remains highly unlikely that the Trump Administration, even if unsuccessful in reversing the decision on appeal, would commence enforcement of incidental take of migratory birds that occurred indirectly or even as a foreseeable result of legitimate business activity.

Also, the administration is nearing the end of a regulatory process to make the legal opinion ruled on by Judge Caproni permanent in the form of regulation. If the administration can finalize a rule codifying its interpretation prior to the election or a change in administrations, it may have a greater and more lasting effect than the court’s decision in this case.

“While we are very encouraged by the unambiguous district court decision, which validates our argument that the administration’s policy is in clear violation of the MBTA, the government could still appeal the decision. If they do so, we will continue to strongly defend the MBTA in court. At the same time, they could still move forward with a proposed regulation that would essentially reinstate this unlawful and harmful policy,” said Sarah Greenberger, Interim Chief Conservation Officer for the National Audubon Society.

Congress must pass the Migratory Bird Protection Act (MBPA) which would reverse the rollback of the MBTA and reinstate bird protections. There is still time for the House to vote on the MBPA this year.

You can help.

· Complete this Audubon Action Alert to let Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler know you support the MBPA.

· Share the Audubon Action Alert with family and friends.

· Share on social media. Please use #ProtectTheBirds in any tweets or Instagram posts around the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or Migratory Bird Protection Act.

By Susan Saul

City of Vancouver puts six-month hold on new bulk fossil fuel facilities

The construction of any new large-scale fossil fuel infrastructure businesses in the city of Vancouver has been halted, at least temporarily.

That decision was preceded by nearly two hours of public testimony, during which only one citizen spoke out in opposition to the temporary ban. Vancouver Audubon Society submitted written comments and verbal testimony in favor of the ban.

The moratorium was initially approved on June 8, by emergency ordinance, which required the council to hold a public hearing and a full vote within 60 days in order to uphold the ban.

That ordinance was introduced by Councilor Laurie Lebowsky, who said she wanted to give city staff time to craft a cohesive resilience plan without any new companies trying to obtain permits for a bulk fossil fuel business ahead of any changes.

“I want to do what we can to support a resiliency plan to promote safety and livability of our city,” said Lebowsky, “and focusing economic development on safe and renewable energy sources and green businesses.”

Under the moratorium, fossil fuels are defined as petroleum or petroleum-based products, as well as natural gases such as propane, methane, and butane. It would exempt byproducts such as fertilizer, paint, asphalt, plastics, and denatured ethanol.

A “large-scale” fossil fuel facility is defined as those engaged in the wholesale distribution, extraction, refinement or processing of fossil fuels, the bulk movement of fossil fuels, coal storage, coal power plants, natural gas processing facilities, storage and handling of natural gas, or bulk storage of more than two million gallons of any combination of fossil fuels.

Direct-to-consumer fossil fuel businesses, such as gas stations and propane refueling are exempt from the moratorium.

The city of Portland and the Port of Vancouver have already passed their own bans on new bulk fossil fuel terminals, and the city of Vancouver has taken a stance against increasing shipments of bulk crude on trains that run along the waterfront and through the west side of the city.

By Susan Saul

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