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Columbia Riverkeeper v. Cowlitz City

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20118
Nos. 17-010c, (Shoreline Hearings Bd., 09/15/2017)

The Washington state Shorelines Hearing Board denied plans to build a methanol refinery on the Columbia River because the plans failed to adequately consider greenhouse gas emissions. A manufacturing company proposed to manufacture methanol from natural gas supplied by a lateral pipeline, with the methanol to be stored on site and subsequently shipped by marine vessel to Asia to be used to produce olefins. The plans included an EIS that analyzed the potential impacts of the project and related actions on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental groups challenged the finding, arguing that the EIS did not adequately consider greenhouse gas emissions and relied solely on the Department of Ecology's (Ecology) withdrawn guidance. The guidance stated that a project's proposed greenhouse gas impacts are presumed not to be significant if the project incorporates mitigation measures reducing its emissions by approximately 11 percent below its estimated emissions without mitigation. The final EIS for the project exceeded this standard using new technology. The Board held that the final EIS was not significant as it relied entirely on Ecology's guidance. The Board stated that Ecology itself found the guidance limiting and withdrew it four months before the EIS was completed. Further, there had been no opportunity for the public to evaluate and comment on the potential impacts and potential mitigation measures. The matter was remanded.