We write today on behalf of all the monastics of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist center of learning and practice located near Newport, Washington, and in close proximity to the many communities in Eastern Washington and North Idaho affected by the HiTestSand silicon smelter proposed for Pend Oreille County.
After months of attending meetings, reading, researching and asking questions, we are joining with the many voices in Newport, Pend Oreille County, Bonners County, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and others who are opposed to the proposed smelter.
We who live in Pend Oreille County live in a place of beauty. Families with deep roots and families who are newcomers live here seeking harmony with nature and with their neighbors. A 40-acre industrial plant with its pollution, noise, lighting and traffic is an affront to the values we hold most dear.
We understand the allure of creating 150 jobs in a county with 6.4 percent unemployment. However, the reports about the kinds of jobs that will be created by the proposed smelter are not that high on the pay scale and the small number of high-paying jobs will be gained by professionals who will move here from elsewhere, as the local Newport population does not yet have people with that kind of training and experience. In our view, the attractiveness of expanded employment does not outweigh the long-term impacts of the silicon smelter on our environment and culture.
Impact on air quality
From a global perspective, the silicon smelter will become one more contributor to greenhouse gases accelerating the onset of climate change. Emissions data recently disclosed in HiTestSand’s Draft PSD Modeling state that the smelter would generate 320,000 tons of greenhouse gases, 760 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 700 tons of nitrogen oxides each year. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of greenhouse gases produced by 65,000 cars driving 11,000 miles each through the streets of Newport per year, and the amount of sulfur dioxide generated by burning 165,000 woodstoves continuously for 365 days per year on 1 acre.
Concerns about water
We are deeply concerned about the amount of water that will be needed for this kind of industry. Where is it going to come from and how will this impact the city of Newport and its watersheds?
At a meeting held at the Camas Center sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and “Responsible Growth – WA” on Jan. 23, we learned that the city of Newport had just denied HiTestSand the water they need for the plant because they requested 240,000 gallons of water daily for the project.
This amount of water is quite a contrast from the previous number of 8,000 gallons per day that was expressed by HiTestSand at one of the meetings in the fall of 2017. Recently, we have heard that HiTestSand has returned to their 8,000 gallons of water per day estimate. If the water does not come from the municipal supply, it has to come from the ground, meaning they will have to drill wells.
The property that HiTestSand has purchased for the proposed smelter straddles two watersheds: the Little Spokane watershed and the Pend Oreille watershed. The Little Spokane watershed is already an over-allocated water system that has to go on water rationing at certain times of the year. The source of the water needed for this project and the daily amount required continues to be a mystery.
Transportation of raw materials
Transportation of raw materials is also an area of concern. An increase in truck and rail traffic will have an impact on the city of Newport in the form of noise and fossil fuel pollution, and wear and tear on the highways and Newport’s roads.
Blue gem coal needed for the smelting process will be brought in by rail either from Kentucky or shipped from Colombia and then by rail from a seaport to Newport. The transport of coal continues to be hazardous and accidents are well documented.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, reminds us, “I am wholly convinced that, if all of us do not make a concerted effort with a sense of universal responsibility, we will see the progressive breakdown of the fragile ecosystems that support us, resulting in irreversible and irrevocable degradation of our planet Earth.”
In summary, as strong supporters of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, we oppose industrial expansion which adds to the misery of living beings. Everyone at Sravasti Abbey cares about the future of Pend Oreille County and the future of all beings on our planet. We raise our voices in strong opposition to the HiTestSand silicon smelter proposal.
Sravasti Abbey is an American Buddhist monastic community where nuns and monks and lay students learn, practice, and live the Buddha’s teachings.
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