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Company intends to transport renewable diesel instead of ethanol pending amendment approval

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Trains passing through Columbia County have long been a concern for residents, both from a safety standpoint and the delays waiting at crossings. Global Partners LP will soon propose a lease amendment to switch from transporting ethanol to transporting renewable diesel on trains through Columbia County.

Eric Slifka, president and CEO of Global Partners, which owns the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery in Clatskanie, spoke at a Port of Columbia County meeting this week to tell port commissioners about the planned change.

The change would not increase the amount of fuel being transported through the county. The fuel would come on shorter trains, which would mean more train passages but shorter delays per train crossing.

More information about the full amendment proposal will be brought to commissioners at the commission's work session later this month.

The company would fully switch from ethanol to renewable fuel.

If the port approves the modification, trains carrying the new fuel could be seen later this year after Global obtains permits and cleans out the tanks. Global staff said the permitting process with DEQ is simple compared to most permit processes. The lease amendment would just add renewable diesel to the list of approved products.

"This is positive for the community in multiple ways: shorter trains, it's renewable fuel, so it's better for the environment," Slifka said. "There's a lot of good things that are surrounding the ask for us, but we'll go through a public process," he added.

Representatives for Global said the safety risks of renewable diesel are less than regular diesel but existing emergency response procedures would still apply in the event of a spill.

Global has been watched closely by environmental advocates.

In late 2018, the port approved an amendment to allow Global to transport heavier grades of crude oil. Global has the capability to both produce and transport ethanol from its Clatskanie facility.

Last fall, Global sought renewal of DEQ permits for ethanol production. Global representatives said at the time that there were no plans to restart ethanol production.

The commission's next meeting will be Feb. 26 at 8:30 a.m.


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