NEXT Presentation Reaction

Give NEXT an hour to talk, and they’ll fill it with promises. That’s what venture capitalists are best at.

We appreciate the City Council’s effort in addressing the NEXT issue, but the neighbors closest to the NEXT facility know that the project will be untenable as its currently proposed. NEXT’s latest dog-and-pony show will not change the fundamental reality: Port Westward is a terrible place to put a major fuel refinery.

The Council gave us a late-night emergency meeting to consider an issue that could have decades of impact, upend people’s livelihoods, and poison our water if a spill were to occur on site with hazardous chemicals or fuel. We should not face such a steep challenge just to pose a set of obvious questions, such as “will the project impair local drainage systems?” (The answer is unequivocally yes.)

As usual, local political players filled the room and obvious pressure was applied on councilmembers raising questions, to browbeat away any concerns. If local leadership is concerned about “making hard decisions”, then think more deeply about them first. Do your homework and propose something that makes engineering sense – not NEXT’s wild-eyed scheme. Saying yes to NEXT is the easy way out.

If you look closely and if you’ve been doing your homework, you will realize Christopher Efird, spokesperson for NEXT, said nothing new. Like his predecessor Lou Soumas, Efird’s responses were superficial at best and misleading at worst when it came to addressing his own track record and NEXT’s ability to site its project responsibly. We were given no opportunity to rebut Efird’s many flawed claims about his Houston-based venture.

Despite the discomfort of being thrown under the bus by our own elected leaders for asking questions, we celebrate that our community sees beyond the charade of how corrupted our local politics can become, when a Houston-based company can walk in and sow division by making false promises. We know that our neighbors outnumber any project supporters where it matters at Port Westward, and that’s within the Drainage District that would be impacted most.

So, Save Port Westward is officially moving on to address solutions for our community in a different way.

First, we stand behind the Beaver Drainage Improvement Company and nearly all landowners neighboring the proposed site who are against NEXT’s proposal. After the special meeting Tuesday night, we refuse to be intimidated, and we will keep speaking up for our neighbors.

Second, the details of NEXT’s official plans have only recently been availed through the beginning of their permitting process. Pertinent details like train and truck traffic have changed often and drastically from original proposals. There should be an Environmental Impact Statement for this project, which will give us more information. Why would we pre-approve the project without an analysis, first? That makes no sense. Let’s see what the EIS says, first.

Third, we are not anti-jobs, anti-tax revenues, or even anti-renewable diesel. We do not support a poorly conceived NEXT project that proposes to be an actual hazard and a major polluter in our community. Renewable diesel has tremendous potential if produced in a way that doesn’t undermine its very objective through industrial agricultural practices that promote massive emissions, soil and water contamination, and the destruction of communities world- wide. NEXT’s proposal is simply the wrong plan, in the wrong place, and by the wrong people.

Fourth, Christopher was involved in the mess in Odessa, period. No matter his spin, Odessa happened on his watch, and his former associate Lou Somas’ watch. An EPA cleanup and unpaid debts are not something to dismiss, and a thorough third-party evaluation of his conduct is the responsible thing for local leadership to require.

Fifth, farmland is disappearing at an alarming rate, and clean water is hard to come by. We’re not sure where you’ll be getting your food from in the future, but we plan to get ours at Port Westward. Our soils here are high value. You cannot make or buy them, and you cannot imagine how important it will be that we preserve what we have left.

We ask you finally: Clatskanie, are we going to put the future of our communities in the hands of one man from Texas?

Think about it, but don’t give yourself too long. The hearing is on January 19 at 10 a.m. Protectoregonfarms.com.

Jasmine and Brandon Schilling are members of the group Save Port Westward. They can be reached at Saveportwestward@gmail.com. For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/portwestward.

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