I attended the cleanest, most peaceful demonstration on April 29. It was held at Port of Kalama, Washington where people of all ages from very different walks of life united in resolve to protect Columbia River salmon. I’m old enough to remember the early days of dwindling salmon runs when there was friction between our fishermen and tribal members. On April 29, representatives of both groups stood as one, determined to stop the world’s largest methanol plant from being built on the Columbia River. Healing between two cultures is underway. I wish I could write the same for our salmon and our mighty Columbia River. The first thing we can do to restore health to our river and our fishing industry is to make it no worse.
Northwest Innovation Works LLC, a Chinese government backed company, seeks to build the world’s largest fracked gas to liquid methanol refinery on a flood plane at the Port of Kalama, Washington. It is to be supplied by a gas pipeline, built over earthquake prone land. Liquid methanol would be stored at Port of Kalama until large tanker ships could transport it to China, over the Columbia River bar (one of the most dangerous river entries in the world). Processing of the gas would require five million gallons of water a day. The ULE technology to be used has never been used in a large refinery because it requires excessive electricity. There are many unanswered questions. Will fish be sucked into the plant with the water? Will workers and community residents suffer health problems from the diesel particulates emitted into the air? Are local emergency services large enough and equipped to handle a disaster should one occur?
Big fossil fuel industries need West Coast locations to produce products, which are often not consumed by Oregonians. When California says no because the proposal is too unhealthy, too dangerous, the corporation(s) turn to us, Oregon and Washington. The LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) is a good example. Unable to build an LNG plant in California, they tried to build it in Clatsop County. It took 12 years of hard work by some Clatsop County residents to stop construction of the plant. The same company is now trying to build its LNG plant in Tacoma, Washington where residents are saying no. Half dozen or more similar unhealthy and dangerous proposals are now being fought along the Columbia River and Puget Sound.
In the past, such proposals were considered because they offered jobs. Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley has just co-sponsored a bill to make the United States run on renewable energy by 2050. I’ll be surprised if it passes. The important point is that it is now possible to consider ending our dependence on “big oil.” Wind and solar power are no longer science fiction. We need to hook our job-wagons to the future, not to fossil industries that pollute our rivers and risk catastrophic accidents.
If all of the above seems to be happening somewhere else, just remember, we walk on north coast Oregon beach sand that came from the Columbia River. What washes out to sea floats back to land on us. The time is now. A few minutes from each of us, a letter, an email and signing of a petition can stop this bombardment. We can make a difference. We can make our Columbia River and our salmon run healthy. What’s good for salmon is healthy for you and me.