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Northwest Innovation Works to Halt Methanol Export Project in Kalama

Kalama, WA (June 11, 2021) – Today Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) notified the Port of Kalama it will terminate its lease, effectively ending efforts to develop a manufacturing plant that would have brought hundreds of short- and long-term family-wage jobs to Kalama. In addition to creating jobs, the facility would have provided an innovative approach to methanol production, reducing global dependence on products made from coal.

Port of Kalama officials point to the state’s regulatory and political environment for killing local, sustainable jobs just when the need is the greatest.

“This was the kind of innovative, job-creating project that originally was supported by the Governor’s office. Jay Inslee stood on Kalama’s waterfront to tout the climate benefits of the project, then turned on us when he ran for president,” said Port Director Mark Wilson.

All the state has accomplished is to encourage more severe greenhouse gas emissions outside the borders of Washington and declare a false climate victory.”

The proposed project would have:

  • Created 1,400 construction jobs;
  • Provided 200 permanent family-wage jobs;
  • Contributed millions in local tax revenue to support schools, roads, and social services;
  • Produced the cleanest methanol on the planet;
  • Displaced Chinese production of coal-based methanol; and
  • Reduced global greenhouse gas emissions using innovative technology.

The project aimed to convert natural gas into methanol for use in manufacturing plastic products like computers, clothing, plywood and medical devices. NWIW would have used a new technology to manufacture methanol, thereby meeting consumer needs while helping the world meet carbon-emission reduction targets. The state required an unprecedented series of environmental studies, all of which demonstrated a significant net reduction in global greenhouse gasses.

Randy Sweet, Port Commission President and accomplished environmental professional stated, “We’ve lost an opportunity to become a global showcase for innovation and environmentally conscious manufacturing in Washington. Unfortunately, this is part of a larger pattern of the unwillingness to listen to differing opinions and find common-sense, balanced solutions.”

The project was first announced in 2014, and the permitting process lasted seven years until now, when NWIW announced it would no longer move forward in Washington state. NWIW spent tens of millions addressing state agency permitting concerns, which shifted constantly over the course of the process.

Port officials are concerned about the broader implications for economic development and environmental protection.

Port Commissioner Troy Stariha added, “NWIW did everything right, and their understandable decision to pull out of this project is a real loss for families trying to make ends meet, the future of economic development in our state, and our environment. The project also would have been a huge revenue lift for schools, police, fire, roads and other services in our area. It is yet another lost opportunity in southwest Washington.”

“This project would have brought manufacturing jobs back to the US from China and significantly lowered a host of environmental impacts,” said Ted Sprague, President of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council. “The reduction in global greenhouse gases would have been greater than the GHG emissions of Seattle. If not a project with benefits like this, then what is good enough?”

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Surge of soybean exports at Port of Kalama sets new record

Kalama, WA – The Port of Kalama recently added another impressive milestone to its resume as it exported more soybeans than any other west coast port in the U.S. last year, according to a recent report from the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

Combining totals from the Port’s two grain elevators, TEMCO and Kalama Export, the Port of Kalama exported nearly 5 million metric tons of soybeans, or 33% of all U.S. west coast soybean exports—edging out the Northwest Seaport Alliance Ports of Tacoma and Seattle (32%).

“Both TEMCO and Kalama Export are the absolute workhorses of the Port,” said Port Commission President, Randy Sweet. “Every year we continue to be amazed at how well they perform, and it speaks volumes about their operations and hardworking employees.”

Even more impressive, the Port of Kalama exported a total of 15 million metric tons of cargo last year, the majority of which were agricultural products. This is nearly 15% more than 2019 totals and 50% more than just ten years ago.

Despite the pandemic, the Port’s successes in 2020 once again earned it the title of third largest exporter on the west coast (just behind the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California) according to the latest figures from the US Census Bureau’s USA Trade Online.

Operating at the Port since the 1960’s, the privately-owned TEMCO grain elevator is a joint venture of Minnesota-based agricultural companies CHS Inc. and Cargill. Kalama Export is also privately-owned and is a joint venture of Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland Company and ConAgra, Inc.

Both grain elevators at the Port of Kalama have seen a surge in exports due, in part, to major upgrades of their facilities in 2014 and 2010, respectively.

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