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Lawsuit Filed over Proposed Newport Smelter

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A lawsuit has been filed against Pend Oreille County, the Pend Oreille Public Utility District, and a Canadian company over a proposed silicon smelter.

The suit, filed this week, claims that the Pend Oreille Public Utility District illegally bought a parcel of land from the county to sell to the Canadian company, HiTest, along with three other parcels it already owned and had declared surplus.

Boise attorney Norm Semanko, who represents the citizen groups opposed to the project, says specific state guidelines were ignored because the parcel needed to be declared as surplus before any sale.

“The PUD has to actually put a notice in the paper, under the statute, that they are intending to designate something surplus and hold a hearing. So the public was denied the request for hearing by statute. They simply sold it, without declaring it surplus. If they don’t declare it surplus, they have to hold an election. So either it was surplus and they didn’t follow the process, including a public hearing, or it wasn’t surplus and they didn’t have an election. Either way the public was denied due process for the sale of PUD property,” Semanko said.

The company hopes to build a smelter in Newport, that it says would bring 150 jobs to the region.

Many area residents are concerned that the smelter will degrade the environment, and cite the company’s own modeling studies that it would emit about 320,000 tons of greenhouse gases, 760 tons of sulfur dioxide and 700 tons of nitrogen oxide each year.

The Kalispel Tribe and Washington State Central Democratic Committee have also come out against the proposed smelter.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.
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