Critics of Newport Smelter Speak Up At Spokane Meeting

Sep 18, 2018

Thupten Sangye from the Srivasti Abbey near Newport shares her concerns about the proposed smelter at a Spokane hearing sponsored by the Department of Ecology.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Critics of a proposed silicon smelter in Newport are urging Washington’s Department of Ecology to take a close look at the project as it begins its environmental review.

They spoke at the first of three public meetings last night [Tuesday] in Spokane.

The Canadian company PacWest Silicon proposes to build its smelter just to the south of Newport, next to the border with Idaho.

People who oppose the smelter cite a variety of environmental concerns, from the air pollution that will come from its stacks to the worries about the amount of water the plant will consume.

Phyllis Kardos from the group Responsible Growth Northeast Washington doesn’t believe the proposal is ready yet to go through the regulatory process.

“There are so many aspects of this that have not been revealed to us. We do not get the opportunity to see blueprints. They want to put in a spur railroad line. We have not seen anything. That would be a huge, huge impact on our community, that railroad line,” Kardos said.

A group of smelter supporters in bright orange shirts sat in a block in the auditorium. Only one got up to speak. Scott Holstrom identified himself as the business manager for the Spokane union representing more than a thousand construction workers.

“We want family wage jobs with health care and good benefits. We also want it to be built with the strictest safety and environmental standards, which trade unions can provide. We are concerned about the environment just like everybody else in this room. We live in this community also," Holstrom said. "But we should look at the science and not be quick to judge. With the environmental impact study, we need to wait for it to come out.”

The Department of Ecology will hold public meetings Wednesday night at Newport High School and Thursday night at the events center in Priest River, Idaho.

The public comment period for the initial round of the smelter public process will continue until October 26.