This is why we can’t stop
Developers Still Pursuing Smelter
Aug 28, 2019
“We remain 100 percent committed to the project, and continue to move things forward on our end,” PacWest CEO Jayson Tymko said in an Aug. 23 email to The Miner. “However as we previously stated in January, we are awaiting the necessary zoning change. In February at a key stakeholders meeting we discussed the importance of all groups maintaining their timelines, but unfortunately we continue to wait for the County to rezone. We have completed all necessary work on our end. Unfortunately, six months ago we notified all agencies, that we continue to patiently wait on the resolution of the County plan. Currently our timelines are open.”
The land where the smelter would be located is currently zoned Public Lands. Industrial uses are not permitted on Public Lands. The county has a comprehensive plan amendment to eliminate the Public Land designation countywide that is working its way through various appeals.
Meanwhile, public officials have faced questions at recent meetings over where the smelter project stands.
During the public comment part of the PUD commission meeting in Newport Tuesday, Aug. 20, smelter opponent Phyllis Kardos of the group Responsible Growth*NE Washington said county commissioner Mike Manus had been overheard saying the project was dead in the water, with PUD commission chair Rick Larson overhead expressing a similar viewpoint. She asked Larson about the status of the smelter project.
Larson said the PUD had had no contact with PacWest and that the project was sitting flat.
PUD General manager Colin Willenbrock said that PacWest’s request for power service had not been revoked.
“But we’ve not heard anything for six months,” he said.
PacWest didn’t meet a June deadline for a payment for a Bonneville Power Administration for a facility study. Now the smelter project could farther be down the BPA list, he said, as there growing demand for power in the region.
Kardos said a source inside the state Department of Commerce, the agency that gave PacWest a $300,000 grant to start the project, deemed a project of statewide significance by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, told her that PacWest was looking for another site.
Willenbrock said that PacWest is potentially a 105 average megawatts a year customer for the PUD, with the possibility to become a 200-megawatt customer when the second phase is complete. By comparison, Ponderay Newsprint Company, the PUD’s biggest customer, uses 82 average megawatts of electricity a year.
Willenbrock said PacWest and the PUD hadn’t begun to negotiate on a wide range of things needed for the project to move forward. That much power would require infrastructure and would likely require electricity from BPA. Willenbrock said the PUD still had about $300,000 of $500,000 PacWest’s cost reimbursement money left. Pac West had initially agreed to pay $1 million but hasn’t paid the second $500,000, according to the PUD. PacWest could always step up and reapply, Willenbrock said.
Tymko wasn’t concerned about falling behind for a BPA study.
“We have always maintained that we are waiting for the zoning to be completed,” he said in response to a Miner question about the BPA study. “PUD has to make their own independent business decisions. We have spent millions on this site, and it is a prudent decision to wait for the zoning. All the studies have shown that we meet the state requirements for emissions and we eagerly await the zoning changes.”
The zoning change Tymko refers to a a county-wide rezone of all lands currently zoned Public Lands. As part of the county’s comprehensive plan update, the county proposes eliminating the Public Lands designation and rezoning the properties according to the county’s land use grid. They would likely be rezoned similar to nearby land.
That rezone ran into opposition by smelter opponents at the planning commission level, which ultimately recommended last April denying the county’s comp plan amendment to rezone all Public Zone lands.
Since then the county’s determination that the comp plan amendment to rezone would have no significant environmental impact under the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) was challenged by Responsible Growth*NE Washington. A county hearings examiner heard the appeal in which both sides were represented by attorneys in late July and said that he didn’t expect to make a decision before the end of August.
The county commissioners have said they won’t move forward with the comprehensive plan amendments until the SEPA case is decided.
Responsible Growth*NEW is also challenging how a public hearing was conducted to take input into the comp plan amendment. Planning commission chairman Norris Boyd had said that the proposed smelter wasn’t what was before the commission and didn’t want it discussed. That violated the Growth Management Act and the State Environmental Policy Act, as well as the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Responsible Growth*NE Washington maintained.
Responsible Growth*NE Washington and the Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter, lost a Spokane County Superior Court case challenging the sale of land by the county to the PUD, who subsequently sold it to PacWest. The judge ruled that the land sale was proper. That case is under appeal.