A meeting will be held in Newport this week to take public input on a plan by the Kalispel Tribe to change their air quality regulations.
The Kalispel Tribe wants to change their status under the Clean Air Act to what is known as a Class One status, the most stringent air requirement a state or entity can implement.
Natural Resource officer with the tribe, Dean Osterman, says the plan was prompted by one issue, plans to build a Silicon Smelter near Newport.
“For the previous decades Ive worked there, and prior to that, the tribe had never considered its air resources at risk. And this was an obvious way to add a layer of protection for the reservation air shed to help limit the amount the pollution that could affect tribal resources,” he said.
The new designation would mean more stringent standards for particulates in the air, as well as Nitrogen Dioxide and Sulfur Dioxide. Only one quarter of the amounts of those pollutants would be allowed, compared to the tribe’s current designation of Class Two status.
David Bray of the US Environmental Protection Agency says the new status would impact an emitter if those pollutants drifted over the reservation from another location.
“So the Department of Ecology or Spokane Clean Air Agency have been for years as they are doing air quality permits, would look at what those emissions would mean on the reservation as they would look at the degradation in Spokane county," Bray said.
This week’s meeting is to take public input on the EPA signing off the change in air designation. EPA official’s stress it is not meant to take public testimony about specific concerns with the smelter, which still has to go through permitting procedures.
The public hearing will take place on Thursday from 6 to 9PM at the Pend Oreille Public Utility District Building in the Newport Conference Room.