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How to offset all of the CO2 from Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue, or what to take from the final EIS on the Kalama project

Tesla has become one of the world’s iconic brands. It is re-shaping the market for battery storage, leading the world in clean energy production that has the potential to transform our planet. This is in addition to having a market capitalization the size of the seven largest auto makers in the world.

So, if Tesla wanted to build a manufacturing plant in Washington State, would that make you proud? Would such a factory make sense for the planet and green house gas emissions?

That’s a question posed by Northwest Innovation Works. It’s a group backing a $2 billion methanol plant in Kalama on the waterfront.

Their point is that any facility that makes things will have some green house gas (GHG) emissions. The question is, in part, what is the overall GHG emission load from a facility, from its upstream inputs and from its downstream products.

Tesla’s GHG impacts wouldn’t be measured by the new factory alone. It would be measured by the total offset, meaning the reduction in things like car emissions resulting from Tesla cars compared to the current level of auto GHG emissions.

In other words, it’s the downstream offsets that would make us proud to have the factory in Washington State, not necessarily the factory itself.

That is preface to the news that yesterday, the Dept. of Ecology released a final Second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSSEIS) as part of the state permitting process for the Northwest Innovation Works facility.

According to proponents, the purpose of the methanol refinery is not for energy production. It’s to refine natural gas for use in advance product manufacturing, ranging from plastics to carbon fibers.

Following the first EIS, DOE decided that it wanted to do a more thorough and complete review of the GHG emissions from this project to survey the totality of the global GHG impact from the plant.

This Second SEIS provides the required additional technical GHG lifecycle analysis (LCA) and a global emissions displacement analysis to
address the requirements identified above. This Second SEIS also reviews and revises mitigation proposed by NWIW to address the KMMEF’s in-state GHG emissions impacts.

When reading the FSSEIS, the Tesla analog makes some sense. The FSSEIS makes clear that there will be “significant” GHG emissions from the plant.

It also makes clear that those in-state emissions would be offset and that net global emissions would drop.

Ecology finds it is feasible to mitigate KMMEF (Northwest Innovation Works) related greenhouse gas emissions. While comparison of KMMEF to the no action alternative shows that the project could possibly result in a smaller global GHG emissions increase relative to the no action alternative, the proposal’s GHG emissions are still considered significant.

In three different analyses by the Dept. of Ecology, the net global GHG load from this project diminishes significantly.

The impact in the chart below is measured in

DOE’s best estimate from the EIS concludes the project will offset 5.92 million metric tons of CO2 emissions (MMT CO2e).

In a “Key Findings” slide deck shared with legislators by NWIW, it puts this number in perspective.

It’s a number equal to the total “annual emissions from the cities of Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma combined.” You can view the breakdown in the data by line item and by city here.

That is a massive amount of offset that seems hard to reproduce through limiting car traffic, or changing the HVAC strategies from office buildings, say NWIW proponents.

Opponents raised concerns during the EIS process that these analyses based on offsets are “too speculative.” However, that “offset model” is the same model used on almost all environmental impact analyses at DOE and across the country.

The Dept. of Ecology now has 30 days to approve, approve with conditions or deny a Shoreline Conditional Use permit.

It’s likely any decision on this permit will end up in courts. But, now that multiple environmental impacts have been studied, it appears clear that this project will create significant CO2 emission offsets to the global airshed, while being net neutral the airshed here in Washington State.

*Northwest Innovation Works was a sponsor of the 2020 Re-Wire Policy Conference

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