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Proposed methanol plant would benefit Columbia County

I have read with dismay the opinions of local and regional critics of a methanol plant being proposed for construction at Port Westward. I think those critics have not fully researched the issue and have missed some important facts.

Why build a methanol plant on the Columbia River? I’ll give you three reasons:

1. Jobs. This facility would be a $1.8 billion investment in Columbia County. It would create 1,000 construction jobs and approximately 200 permanent, family-wage jobs. These jobs would be a tremendous benefit for many residents in our county, which has an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.

Charles Daughtry, executive director for Columbia County Economic Team 2. Climate Change. The reason China is converting its olefins manufacturing from an oil- and coal-based system to a natural gas-to-methanol system? Because it is better for the environment, reducing greenhouse gases and toxic wastes significantly. Don’t we want China, the world’s leading manufacturing nation, to do more to protect the environment? And the idea that China will use the methanol just to make “dollar store junk” is not true. In reality, methanol is used to make many everyday products, from the carpet in your house to the windshield washer fluid in your car.

3. Value-Added Manufacturing. This isn’t an energy project and it’s not the exporting of raw materials that some claim it to be. Northwest Innovation Works will build a value-added manufacturing facility — the kind that the state of Oregon wants to encourage. Whether we create computer chips, wood products or methanol, manufacturing creates good paying jobs that we want in Oregon.

The Columbia River has always been an integral part of our economic growth and quality of life in Columbia County. Do we need to protect that asset? Of course, and that’s why we have strict regulatory and permitting processes in place. The reality is, we have less commercial traffic on the river today than we did 20 years ago, and many jobs have disappeared from the region. We can have both economic development and good environmental stewardship - we don’t have to choose one over the other.

The NW Innovation Works facility is good for our county and for northwest Oregon.