Tech Acquisition Company Cancels Merger with NXTClean Fuels, Formerly NEXT Renewable Fuels

Paloma Ayala
Warren Seely looks over his mint farm in Port Westward.

The company says the aborted merger will not impact its proposed Oregon refineries, but NXT’s critics say this is one more reason to be skeptical.

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Industrial Tech Acquisitions II has announced the termination of its planned merger with Texas-based NXTClean Fuels, formerly NEXT Renewable Fuels, a company with two proposed renewable fuel facilities in Lakeview and Port Westward.

The filing, which was announced last week, described the termination as mutual. Industrial Tech Acquisitions II also announced its own liquidation in the filing. The terminated deal was expected to bring $176 million to NXTClean Fuels ahead of the company’s initial public offering. Plans to go public were announced last year along with along with plans to rebrand as NXTCLEAN Fuels, Inc.; the company has moved forward with the latter.

In an email to Oregon Business, a spokesperson from NXTClean Fuels wrote that the “termination of the SPAC merger does not impact our development activities in Oregon, and we continue to advance through permitting for our Port Westward renewable fuels project. Similarly, we continue to explore financing opportunities as we move forward with project development.”

NXTClean Fuels’ proposed Port Westward biodiesel facility has generated pushback among local farmers and environmental groups, who have voiced concern about how the operation would impact the surrounding farmlands and local flora and fauna. The project has also drawn scrutiny of its business model and the feasibility of its plan to turn fish carcasses into clean fuel.

Warren Seely, a Columbia County mint farmer and one of the project’s most outspoken critics, uprooted 19 acres of his peppermint crop in mid-September after the Port of Columbia County took back land it leased to his farm to make way for NXTClean Fuel’s proposed rail yard . The Port sent him a letter on August 30 saying he had 180 days to vacate the land.

Seely, an opponent of the refinery project, says the Port was fully within its rights to request back the land, and did ask him for a financial impact statement. He says news of NXTClean Fuel’s failed merger made him question the Port’s decision to act as though the refinery project was certain. (The Port of Columbia County was contacted by OB, but said it would defer all questions to NXTClean Fuels.) 

“I feel like it was a short-sighted move, especially with the recent development where NXT did not get their merger. They can’t even legally build within the district right now,” Seely told OB last week. “When all is said and done with crops and infrastructure, this is probably going to cost me a couple hundred thousand dollars per year, so the kick-off of the 19 acres was pretty short-sighted when everything is said and done.”

Audrey Leonard, staff attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, tells OB the Port Westward refinery’s pending land-use permit approvals, failed merger with the SPAC, and rejection of its 401 Water Quality Certification by the DEQ have all contributed to uncertainty around the project among members of the community.

“They’ve had their 401 Water Quality Certificate denied twice for not providing enough information. They’ve submitted numerous different site plans and they’ve gone back on their promise not to have rail through the site. Basically, a laundry list of bad actions that has really garnered a lot of mistrust in the community,” says Leonard. “This uncertainty is proven by this failed merger that they talked up so much, and explained was such an important part of getting the financing that they need to come up with to be successful with this.”

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