A new study finds a controversial fossil fuel refinery proposed at Washington’s Port of Kalama would actually reduce global carbon emissions.

The study was commissioned by the port and Cowlitz County in response to a permit requirement by the state of Washington to report the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project.

A California-based company called Life Cycle Associates tallied all the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the $1.8 billion methanol refinery proposed by developer NW Innovation Works.

A grain ship on the Columbia River at the Port of Kalama, which could one day also host a methanol plant.

A grain ship on the Columbia River at the Port of Kalama, which could one day also host a methanol plant.

Ashley Ahearn, KUOW/EarthFix

The plant would convert natural gas into methanol that would be shipped overseas and made into plastic.

The study, part of a draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the project, included the carbon emissions from the plant’s construction and operation, its energy sources and shipping. It concluded that while the plant would generate carbon pollution, it would also displace dirtier methanol production overseas, resulting in a net reduction of global carbon emissions.

Brett VandenHeuvel with the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper said that conclusion is deeply flawed, and that the project will still be a major source of pollution in Washington.

“They paid for a report and they got the answer they wanted but we don’t think it’s going to fool Washington state leaders,” he said. “It’s laughable that the world’s largest fracked gas refinery will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Columbia Riverkeeper challenged the project’s shoreline permit last year, and the Washington Shorelines Hearings Board responded by requiring additional information about the project’s greenhouse gas emissions before the permit could be approved.

Vee Godley, chief development officer for NW Innovation Works, said his company plans on offsetting all of its pollution through a mitigation plan in addition to using the cleaner methods of producing methanol.

“We’re looking forward to having a discussion about the best way to mitigate our impacts,” he said. “We want to see this money be utilized to support green initiatives in Washington.”

If the state approves its final permit, he said, the company plans to start construction next year.

A public hearing on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the project is scheduled for Dec. 13 in Longview, Washington.