Officials at NEXT Renewable Fuels have issued a release about its permitting process with the state in the company's efforts to build a $2 billion plant at Port Westward in the Clatskanie area of north Columbia County.
In the May 31 release, NEXT states, that more than 7,000 public comments and letters were submitted to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) urging the agency to approve the company's air permit.
According to the NEXT release, in its draft permit, DEQ stated “NEXT Renewable Fuels Oregon, LLC is not a major source of EPA-listed hazardous air pollutants” and “DEQ has concluded the potential emissions meet health risk standards for the community and do not require additional controls to be protective of public health.”
NEXT said it has already received all county land use approvals and its Oregon Department of State Lands Removal Fill permit. NEXT’s proposal is currently under federal environmental review.
The DEQ review
More review of the required permits by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is underway, according to the DEQ's Public Affairs Specialist Lauren Wirtis, who told The Chief that no permits have been issued by her agency yet.
"The public comment period closed on the draft air quality permit (what was published on the website) and DEQ is reviewing those comments," she said. "After reviewing and responding to those comments, DEQ will issue a permit decision.
Wirtis said the air quality permit is the first permitting action DEQ is evaluating for the proposed NEXT Renewable Fuels facility. Other required permits/certifications include:
- DEQ stormwater permit coverage for controlling stormwater during construction.
- DEQ 401 water quality certification to ensure the project will not violate state water quality standards.
- DEQ industrial stormwater discharge general permit that regulates stormwater in the long-term.
Supporters have said the proposed fuels plant will add new jobs, boost sustainable tax resources and offer a clean energy source.
Opponents have voiced concerns about the refinery’s impacts on the Columbia River estuary and neighboring farmlands.
Follow this developing story here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.