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The Spotlight hears readers' different takes on the NEXT Renewable Fuels project.

Editor's note: Have a letter to share? Email your thoughts to Editor-in-Chief Mark Miller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Letters should be no more than 400 words. All submissions must include the name and hometown of the author. Commercial solicitations will not be accepted as letters to the editor. Submissions should not include profane or defamatory language. We may lightly edit submissions for style and clarity.

Fluff about 'green' NEXT biofuel project is just that

Cosmetology? It seems an odd career move for a voter-retired former Columbia County commissioner.

Tony Hyde's full-throated endorsement of the NEXT "renewable" diesel facility (letter to the editor, published April 8, 2022) is a perfect example of the porcine makeover known as "putting lipstick on a pig."

He employs all the soothing buzzwords and talking points like "energy independence," "renewable energy" and "climate mitigation." The project is "innovative and forward-thinking." Golly, there's even a "wetland improvement project" to "enhance" the environment!

But consider that these types of "improvement projects" are offered as an admission that the fuel project will cause environmental damage. How often do these mitigation efforts fully restore the damage they create? Never.

Anyone who really believes that manufacturing and burning diesel fuel will "mitigate climate impacts" is probably better suited for cosmetology than promoting public policy.

Jeff Campbell, Scappoose

Still missing the answers on St. Helens' empty reservoir

This 2 million gallon reservoir has been in a state of repairs for 5 years and still remains a failure. The City of St. Helens, when questioned, claims the reservoir is in litigation and they won't release any contractual information. There has been no repair activity for years. The city must have a worried concern on their participation, and haven't been able enforce the contract.

I have always said the city will have a hard time winning their case in litigation, because the initial application was a failure due to a lack of overght. There was no holiday testing (bottom third) before the application of the geotextile mat. Failure was caused by water and moisture that contributed to its ultimate failure.

Now we have the question, who was the inspection team? This must be the city, or a contracted inspection person.

Despite the initial repair, and even with corrective efforts, the leaks haven't been fixed. The city felt it's a workmanship issue, that WPI did not apply the product correctly. There was a recommendation that the condition was so bad that it should be removed and replaced. Now the reservoir has been patch-fixed and tested three more times, also failing, the last time in April 2019. The city now has an empty reservoir that's condition has now been made worse.

Mouhamad Zaher gave a report to the Spotlight Jan. 28, 2022, on the City of St. Helens Master Water Plan. I contacted Mouhamad and asked why there was no mention of the failed reservoir. He said there would be a finalized report in March.

March 1, the city hired Walker Consultants to explore and investigate the reservoir for cause and responsibility of failures.

March 23, I filed for the right to information, requesting a copy of the Walker report.

March 30, the city sent an email denying my request.

So the city paid for the Walker report, but doesn't want to share an update of cause, responsibility and solution.

The report must be detrimental to the city' case in litigation, because everyone's position hinges on inspection oversight failure.

If the city's position was strong, noting all the consequences of failure, why wasn't this contract enforcement pursued? It is shameful this has persisted for years. The city probably shares some complicity in the cause of failure. This will probably end with hidden arbitration, and we will probably never learn the truth or the cost.

Ron Trommlitz, St. Helens

Green jobs and a future to be proud of

We live in a critical and transitional time, one where we must bravely face the uncertainty that immediate threats such as climate change have on our collective future.

It is with that in mind that I write in support of NEXT Renewable Fuels' renewable diesel project at Port Westward.

We must focus our attention and efforts on securing green jobs like those afforded by this project in our community.

These are jobs our young people can secure as apprenticeships to build into union-backed careers. Family-wage jobs that local workers deserve, and that will help minimize the climate impacts of our members' typical, out-of-county commutes. Jobs that will put Oregon on the renewable fuels map. Jobs that will make future generations proud, while equipping the current generation with opportunities to stand on the right side of a concerning climate history.

Our community has a unique opportunity to usher in a new wave of green fuel solutions, starting with this renewable diesel facility, and we should embrace it. Both for the sustainability of our planet and also for the sustainability of our local economy.

Rarely does doing what's right for the community and the environment come together in a singular project, but that's what's happening with the NEXT Renewable Fuels project. There is no reason to stand in the way of a project with such a direct and positive impact on green job prospects and the environment.

I urge you to support NEXT Renewable Fuels, and for DEQ to approve the air quality permit without delay so that local union construction workers can begin to build this important and beneficial facility.

Paul Philpott

Member Engagement Representative, NW Carpenters Union


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