Pend Oreille PUD Responds To PacWest Letter

Jan 23, 2020

A PUD official has addressed criticisms leveled by the PacWest CEO over plans to provide electricity for a proposed silicon smelter in Newport.

The Pend Oreille County Public Utility District is defending itself from criticism leveled by the CEO of a Canadian company that wants to build a silicon smelter near Newport, Washington.

The critique came in a recent letter from PacWest Silicon chief Jayson Tymko to Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

The letter outlines why PacWest broke off collaboration with the PUD. Tymko writes PacWest acted after what he called “bad faith” actions by the PUD. He says the district gave his company inaccurate quotes for the cost of hooking up to electrical power, saying the costs climbed from $12 million to $50 million. He also claims the PUD delayed the originally estimated time frame for providing power from 14 months to 3 years. Tymko's letter also says there were problems with a land sale when PacWest acquired property from the PUD for the project, including lack of physical access to the property.

PUD General Manager Colin Willenbrock says the district tried to give PacWest an honest estimate of how long it would take to get electricity to their project. He says much of that depended on the Bonneville Power Administration’s connection process.

“The scope of the customer’s project changed and had several different iterations over the last few years, going from a 105 to 210 megawatt load, which required different routes and feeds. On top of that, working with BPA, it was up to them on their initial estimates for cost,” Willenbrock said.

He says PacWest was asking for six times the amount of electricity the PUD provides for the rest of the county.

As far as the land sale goes, Willenbrock says a court upheld the land sale as proper, and says access was available, although maybe not the size a smelter would require.

The PUD head says he is not sure of the exact status of PacWest's future plans. Tymko's letter says the smelter plans are “on hold."