FEMA Gives Final Green Light to Grays Harbor Biodiesel Plant; Construction Now Set to Begin

Oct 26 2006

Murray, Cantwell and Dicks teamed up with Port of Grays Harbor and Seattle Biodiesel to back development of one of nation’s largest biodiesel facilities

WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA) applauded FEMA’s decision to allow full-scale construction to begin on the planned biodiesel plant at the Port of Grays Harbor. Seattle Biodiesel has now obtained all necessary permits and will begin building one of the nation’s largest biodiesel facilities.

“Getting the final okay to start construction in Grays Harbor means new local jobs for the region and a real long-term investment in the future of southwest Washington,” said Cantwell. “This new plant will be the production hub for our state’s growing biofuels industry and help reduce our country’s overdependence on Middle East oil. Increasing the amount of fuel grown and produced locally will help keep energy prices stable, provide some price competition at the gas pump, give Washington consumers a reliable alternative to oil, and deliver quality local new jobs.”

“When I met with Grays Harbor community leaders in August, I heard concerns that bureaucratic delays could cause problems for this project,” said Murray. “We immediately went to work after that meeting. Today’s approval means a new home for Washington state biofuel production, a new source of jobs for the people of Grays Harbor, and a new way to combat high gas prices. It also comes at a time when the biofuel industry is booming, and will allow Grays Harbor and Washington state to begin leading the way in providing a clean-burning alternative to oil.”

Congressman Dicks noted that the Washington Congressional delegation brought the issue to the top leadership of FEMA because of the need to start construction before winter weather arrives.

“We were able to convince the agency to assign additional resources to the project so that the thorough review of all flood-plain issues could take place faster than would typically happen,” he said. "We are all very pleased by the work the Port did to expedite the process and, of course, by FEMA’s prompt decision.”

FEMA approval was needed because the building site is within a former flood plain. The area has since been filled, but FEMA’s map needed updating before the permit could be approved.

Last May in Aberdeen, Cantwell joined officials from the Port of Grays Harbor and Seattle Biodiesel to announce plans to build the $40 million biodiesel facility on land owned by the Port of Grays Harbor between Aberdeen and Hoquiam. The plant will produce 100 million gallons of biodiesel annually, employ 50 people, and create 250 or more temporary construction jobs.

In July, the Port of Grays Harbor petitioned FEMA to revise the Flood Insurance Rate Map for the site so construction could begin. The out-of-date map currently used by FEMA placed the site within the flood plain. However, the ground-level at the site has since been raised. Earlier this month, Cantwell, Murray, and Dicks sent a letter to FEMA asking them to expedite the process and reach a final decision as soon as possible. FEMA announced its approval of the plant’s construction and its decision to revise the Flood Insurance Rate Map. The site sits between two existing industrial properties already approved by FEMA.

Cantwell has long worked to increase our nation’s energy independence, promote greater use of domestically produced biofuels, increase the availability of flex-fuel vehicles and biofuel pumps, and improve national fuel economy standards. In October, Cantwell convened the BioFuels Business Collaborative—a group of Washington businesses, farmers, investors, and fuel consumers—to help create a Washington biofuels industry and build facilities similar to the one planned for the Port of Grays Harbor. Cantwell authored legislation included in last year’s Energy Policy Act to help find ways to create additional high-value products during biodiesel production and further reduce the overall cost of biodiesel. She has also sponsored comprehensive energy legislation (S.2829) to reducing domestic oil consumption equivalent to 40 percent of America’s projected imports in the next 20 years.