Saturday, January 13, 2018

Newport Silicon Smelter Public Meeting

January 03, 2018 | Priest River Times

NEWPORT — Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser Sunday, Jan. 14 from 1-5 p.m. at Hospitality House located at 216 S. Washington Ave. in Newport. Bake sale and drinks will be also available. An opportunity drawing plus door prizes will be awarded. A silent auction will take place. All proceeds go to the CANSS Legal Fund. Donations are appreciated!

HiTest Opposition Growing
By Don Gronning | The Miner | Jan 03, 2018

NEWPORT – After months of grass roots opposition to a silicon smelter proposed to be built about a mile south of Newport on the Idaho state line, the opposition is gaining momentum, with the Idaho Conservation League adding its voice.

Matt Nykiel, a conservation associate with the Boise based ICL, writes on the blog in a Dec. 21 post headlined ‘What’s a Breath of Clean Air Worth?’ that “prevailing winds would likely carry emissions from this smelter into Bonner and Boundary counties.”

He writes that since October, the ICL has been in touch with state agencies and HiTest Sands officials. “We are concerned that despite HiTest’s best intentions, this smelter could damage air quality and health in North Idaho.”

Nykiel flatly states that federal and state agencies are budget-strapped and lack the support to hold polluters to the rules on the books.

The Environmental Protection Agency has lost 700 employees since the election of Donald Trump, he says, and the Trump administration has proposed further defunding the EPA by 31 percent.

“Because of this, the EPA is far less able to assist states like Idaho and Washington with the funding, monitoring and technical expertise that would ensure that the proposed smelter does not break the rules and pollute our air,” he writes. “Idaho and Washington environmental agencies alone simply don’t have the resources to properly enforce air quality permits and demand the most protective pollution controls from savvy industrial companies.”

He says at a minimum, HiTest should collect site-specific air samples for at least a year before seeking a permit from Washington. Nykiel urges people to contact the Washington Department of Ecology and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to pressure the agencies to require HiTest to do that collection.

The Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter, probably the first organized group to oppose the smelter, has kept the pressure on local officials, with members showing up at city council meetings, county commission hearings and other government meetings to speak against the smelter. They’ve organized online through websites and a Facebook page and group, as well as holding several well attended meetings.

While the ICL calls for pressure at a state agency level, CANSS is pressuring local politicians.

They retained GOP connected attorney Norm Semanko of the Boise law firm Parsons Behle & Latimer. Semanko served briefly as general counsel of the Republican National Committee and two terms as Idaho Republican Party Chair.

Semanko and Washington licensed attorney Dylan Eaton wrote a Dec. 21 letter to Pend Oreille County Planning Commission community development director Greg Snow addressing potential changes to the county’s conditional use process.

Semanko and Eaton wrote that the county planning commission acknowledged that a zone change from Public Lands was needed for the HiTest property. They asked rezones be considered individually and not rezoned as a group. They asked that any hearings be held in Newport. They said the HiTest rezone requires the highest level review by the planning commission, with the county commissioners making the final decision.

The Kalispel Tribe is on record opposing the HiTest smelter. Tribal Chairman Glen Nenema wrote Gov. Jay Inslee Nov. 27 requesting a government-to-government consultation about the smelter.

He wrote that the air was the last remaining natural resource in the lower Pend Oreille Basin that hasn’t been degraded. The fish are too toxic to eat in large quantities and the Pend Oreille River is a series of reservoirs, he wrote.

“The Tribe and its governmental and community partners are in the midst of a multi-decade, $400 million restoration and conservation effort to address these problems,” Nenema writes. “The last thing we need is a facility that will undermine this effort by contributing to environmental problems like acid rain and climate change, and will increase the risk of health problems like asthma, lung cancer, and developmental problems.”

Apparently there was a meeting between Kalispel Tribal officials and Inslee. According to a Dec. 29 post on the CANSS Facebook page, a meeting was held “a week or so ago.”

Tribal council member Curt Holmes posts regularly on the page. He wrote that he was at the meeting with Inslee and that he may be able to share more details soon, but that he did not leave the meeting feeling very good.

“I definitely felt he (governor Inslee) seemed to be in favor of if not supportive of the project,” Holmes wrote Dec. 29.

While the CANSS group is long on energy, they don’t have that much money, at least compared to organizations like the Idaho Conservation League and Kalispel Tribe. ICL has a nearly $3 million annual budget and offices around the state, including one in Sandpoint. The Kalispel Tribe has revenue from the Northern Quest Resort & Casino and other business interests and a Natural Resources Department working on opposing the smelter.

HiTest company officials said they put up $25 million of their own money preparing for the project. They announced at the Nov. 29 meeting held atNewport High School that they would go out for financing in January, seeking $150 million.

And even though HiTest has yet to submit any permit applications, with that much money and passion involved, it seems the HiTest battle is far from over.

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