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The biofuels plant will utilize this dock at Port Westward in Clatskanie.

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New information is emerging concerning plans to build a biofuels facility at Port Westward in Clatskanie.

NEXT Renewable Fuels President and Director Lou Soumas said it will be two more years before NEXT begins to hire a managing team. This is in line with what Soumas originally promised; that commercial operations would begin in 2022.

Soumas presented new details on the status of permitting, other hiring processes and next steps for the operation, during the Sept. 9 regular meeting of the Port of Columbia County.

According to Soumas, the plant site is properly zoned, but NEXT will have obtain a conditional use permit through the county as a final step before operations can begin.

Hiring is also in process for senior positions in design and engineering, according to Soumas. Next steps for NEXT include releasing a work order for dock evaluation work, which will be done in coordination with the port, according to Soumas.

The port approved the ground lease for NEXT in September of 2019. The vote was controversial, with three commissioners, Larry Ericksen, Robert Keyser and Chris Iverson in favor of the lease, and two commissioners, Nancy Ward and Chip Bubl opposed.

With the ground lease approval, the port also approved a memorandum of agreement that stated that NEXT would not take advantage of any tax breaks from the Enterprise Zone where the facility is located. The agreement means that NEXT will pay property taxes from the beginning of operations.

NEXT Renewable Fuels is a corporation that turns recycled organic materials into biofuels, with up to 85% less greenhouse gas emissions, according to NEXT’s website.

The biofuels plant at Port Westward in Clatskanie is estimated to be an investment of approximately $1 billion.

Soumas has promised that the facility will result in approximately 200 local jobs.

Soumas also provided an updated about the project during a Zoom Friday, Sept. 11 meeting of the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce 

Follow developments here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.

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