Column: Wrong people, wrong place, wrong project | Opinion

Give NEXT an hour to talk, and they’ll fill it with promise. This is what venture capitalists know how to do best.

We appreciate the City Council’s efforts to resolve the NEXT issue, but the neighbors closest to the NEXT facility know that the project will be unsustainable as currently proposed. NEXT’s latest Dogs and Ponies show won’t change the basic reality: Port Westward is a terrible place to set up a major fuel refinery.

The Council has given us an emergency late night meeting to consider an issue that could have decades of impact, upend people’s livelihoods and poison our water if a spill were to occur on site with chemicals or dangerous fuel. We shouldn’t face such a difficult challenge simply to ask a series of obvious questions, such as “Will the project alter local drainage systems?” (The answer is unequivocally yes.)

As usual, local political actors filled the room and there was obvious pressure on council members asking questions, to drown out any concerns. If local leaders are concerned with “making tough decisions,” then think about that more deeply first. Do your homework and come up with something that makes engineering sense – not the wacky scheme of NEXT. Saying yes to NEXT is the easy way out.

If you look closely and have done your homework, you’ll realize that NEXT spokesperson Christopher Efird hasn’t said anything new. Like his predecessor Lou Soumas, Efird’s responses were cursory at best and misleading at worst when it came to addressing his own background and NEXT’s ability to responsibly plant his project. We haven’t had a chance to refute Efird’s many erroneous claims about his Houston-based company.

Despite the discomfort of being thrown under the bus by our own elected leaders for asking questions, we celebrate that our community sees beyond the corruption charade of our local politics, when a business based in Houston can come in and sow division by making false promises. We know our neighbors outnumber all project supporters where it counts in Port Westward, and it’s in the drainage district that would be hit the hardest.

So Save Port Westward is officially moving on to solving solutions for our community in a different way.

First, we support the Beaver Drainage Improvement Company and nearly all of the landowners adjacent to the proposed site who oppose NEXT’s proposal. After Tuesday night’s special meeting, we refuse to be intimidated and we will continue to stand up for our neighbours.

Second, details of NEXT’s official plans were only recently released at the start of their licensing process. Relevant details such as train and truck traffic have changed often and drastically from the original proposals. There should be an environmental impact statement for this project, which will give us more information. Why would we first approve the project without analysis? That does not make any sense. Let’s see what the EIS says first.

Third, we are not anti-jobs, anti-tax revenue or even anti-renewable diesel. We do not support a poorly designed NEXT project that sets out to be a real danger and a major polluter in our community. Renewable diesel has enormous potential if produced in a way that does not compromise its purpose even through industrial farming practices that promote massive emissions, soil and water contamination and the destruction of communities in the whole world. The NEXT proposal is simply the wrong plan, in the wrong place, by the wrong people.

Fourth, Christopher was involved in the Odessa mess, period. No matter his spin, Odessa got on his watch, and the watch of his former associate Lou Somas. An EPA cleanup and unpaid debt is not something to be dismissed, and a thorough third-party assessment of one’s conduct is the responsible thing local leaders must demand.

Fifth, agricultural land is disappearing at an alarming rate and drinking water is hard to come by. We don’t know where you will be getting your food from in the future, but we plan to get ours in Port Westward. Our soils here are of great value. You can’t make them or buy them, and you can’t imagine how important it will be for us to preserve what we have left.

Finally, we ask you: Clatskanie, are we going to put the future of our communities in the hands of one man from Texas?

Think about it, but don’t give yourself too much time. The hearing is January 19 at 10 a.m.

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