The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has granted Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery a renewal of their air quality emissions permit for ethanol production.
The permit renews the existing emissions limits for various pollutants, including hazardous pollutants, and adds a limit of 665,800 tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions. A separate air quality permit regulates Columbia Pacific's oil storage and transloading operations. That proposed permit has not yet opened up for public comment.
The permit will also allow the owner, Cascade Kelly Holdings, which operates as Global Partners LP, to build equipment to produce ethanol from wheat. Currently, the facility has the capability to produce ethanol from corn.
During a public comment period, DEQ received almost 300 written comments in addition to a petition started by Columbia Riverkeeper, which garnered more than 680 signatures against the permit.
Of the written comments, 100 came from Oregon residents and 66 came from Washington residents. Approximately 20 of the written comments came from Columbia County residents.
One of those comments came from Scappoose resident Alta Lynch, who wrote that she was also submitting 129 signatures in favor of the permit renewal. In sharp contrast to the petition against the permit renewal, the vast majority of signees — 123 out of 129 — of Lynch's petition were residents of Columbia County.
Many of the written comments against the permit were sent with a prepared statement from Riverkeeper, which urged DEQ to amend the permit "to remove the overlap between oil and ethanol operations."
Paulette Lichatowich, a former Port of Columbia County commissioner, advocated against the permit.
"I urge ODEQ to send back these applications to clarify inconsistencies and to truly separate the ethanol air emissions permit from the transloading air emissions permit," Lichatowich wrote.
Keith Forsythe, president of Pacific Industrial Service Inc. in St. Helens, and Columbia County resident Cliff Multanen both urged DEQ to approve the permit, citing jobs.
The North County "is in need of family wage jobs that this company offers," Multanen wrote.
The production facilities have not operated since 2009. In 2013, the company laid off employees and announced plans to transition from shipping crude oil to shipping ethanol. But last December, the Port of Columbia County approved a lease amendment with Global Partners to allow heavier oil shipments.
Critics expressed concern that Global could be slowly moving toward increasing oil transport through the county. "Otherwise, why would they (Global) push the Port of Columbia County to change the API range" to allow shipment of heavier oils, St. Helens resident Ann Morten wrote. "The company has a history of receiving permits to do one type of activity and doing another. We cannot trust them."
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