Towards a climate test for industry: assessing a gas-based methanol plant

This discussion brief explores the possibility of a “climate test” for new industrial development by focusing on a case study in the U.S. State of Washington. The debate in Washington over a new chemical facility – to make methanol, a building block of plastics – has centered on its GHG emissions. Proponents have claimed the facility would yield significant climate benefits, but a government regulatory body invalidated a key permit because, in part, the local agencies that performed the environmental review had “failed to fully analyze the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from the Project.” In this brief, the authors use this case study to develop principles for assessing whether major industrial development is consistent with climate goals. They look at how GHG emissions effects are assessed, and show the importance of taking a more global perspective that examines the emissions effects beyond jurisdictional boundaries.