Permitting Issues Delay Construction Of The Largest Alternative Diesel Refinery In The United States

Diesel Refinery: Several new permitting hurdles threaten an Oregon company’s plans to construct the largest alternative or renewable diesel refinery in the country besides the Columbia River.

Permitting Issues Delay Construction Of The Largest Alternative Diesel Refinery

Next Renewable Fuels, Inc., based in Portland, was denied a crucial water permit by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in September, and then on October 27, the Land Use Board of Appeals ruled that the company could not construct a rail yard as planned because the land in question was zoned for agriculture.

According to Michael Hinrichs, the company’s communications director, the train yard would only be used in the event of a transport shutdown on the river, at which point it would be used to collect materials and distribute fuel.

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Using materials like recycled cooking oil, the Advanced Green Diesel refinery might produce renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel, which are as effective as petroleum-based fuels but produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Port Westward, which is close to Clatskanie, would be the site of the proposed refinery.

Despite mentioning that it is examining leftover cooking oil, animal fats, and fish carcasses as possible alternatives for processing into sustainable diesel, the business has not given information regarding the resources it would employ. Hinrich has stated that they will not use other, more contentious feedstocks like virgin soybean oil or palm oil due to their higher carbon intensity.

It has been determined by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that switching from traditional petroleum-based diesel to renewable diesel could reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions from diesel by as much as 85 percent.

After environmentalists petitioned the Land Use Board, alleging that a rail yard is too vast for agricultural land, the board agreed with them and revoked the land license.

Environmental organization Columbia Riverkeeper in Portland notified the Oregon environmental agency and the Department of Energy on Tuesday that Next no longer qualified for an air-quality permit or a site certificate exemption after the land-use permit was canceled. According to Audrey Leonard, staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, both permits require the land-use permit for the rail yard.

Leonard requested that the authorities review the air-quality permit and site exemption certificate and then revoke them in a letter to the agency.

Permitting Issues Delay Construction Of The Largest Alternative Diesel Refinery
Permitting Issues Delay Construction Of The Largest Alternative Diesel Refinery

“Columbia Riverkeeper is devoted to preventing harm to the Columbia River Estuary, including the neighboring community and farmers,” added Leonard.

For Hinrich, environmentalists are completely wrong.

“Columbia Riverkeeper’s statements are either dishonest or plain misinformed,” he stated. That claim was backed up by a link to a report from the Environmental Quality Department’s Interim Director Leah Feldon dated November 18th, which said that the land-use appeal has no bearing on the agency’s air-quality permit.

According to Hinrich, that study provides further assurance to Next that the permits will stand, and will not be subject to challenge.

According to him, the corporation will resubmit proposals to the county for land use approval that don’t involve the rail yard. The water permit application that was denied by DEQ will be resubmitted by the corporation.

According to DEQ regional spokesperson Lauren Wirtis, the department is currently discussing Columbia Riverkeeper’s legal claims with the Oregon Department of Justice.

Also, Jennifer Kalez, a representative for the Energy Department, said that they are now analyzing the letter and would get back to Columbia Riverkeeper within the next week.

Subsequently, according to documents presented to the authorities, officials want to construct the refinery at a cost of roughly $2 billion and open it in 2024. Over time, it might generate roughly 50,000 barrels per day of alternative fuel.

Leonard said that the group is concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding the ingredients Next will use to produce the alternative diesel, in addition to its concerns about the health of the Columbia River near the refinery.

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According to Leonard, “renewable diesel’s” environmental benefits “depend on the feedstocks.” To ensure that their final product is free of contamination, we would appreciate it if they could demonstrate to us exactly where they plan on sourcing these materials.

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