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Public meetings begin next week on proposed Newport silicon smelter

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 11, 2018, 6:35 p.m.

A controversial silicon smelter proposed near Newport is the topic of four upcoming public meetings.

Beginning next week, area residents can weigh in on what they think should be included in the state’s environmental review for the smelter project. The Department of Ecology will conduct the meetings and also will accept written comments through Oct. 11.

PacWest Silicon, which would operate the smelter, is a subsidiary of HiTest Sands, of Alberta. The company owns a silica deposit near Golden, British Columbia. Northeast Washington’s low electricity prices attracted the company to Newport for the energy-intensive smelting process. The silica is combined with wood chips, coal and charcoal at high temperatures to produce the metal.

PacWest plans to build the smelter on 186 acres south of Newport, adjacent to the Washington-Idaho border. Company officials say the smelter will create about 400 jobs during its construction, and employ up to 150 people once it is operating.

Opponents have raised questions about the smelter’s emissions, its location near rural residences and the role of Pend Oreille County and the Pend Oreille County Public Utilities District in selling land to HiTest Sands for the smelter site.

Through the environmental review, state officials will analyze the smelter’s impact on the natural environment and nearby communities, including potential mitigation measures. State air- and water-quality permits would be required to operate the smelter.

The Department of Ecology is expecting a strong turnout for the meetings, said Brook Beeler, an agency spokeswoman.

Sept. 18, 6 to 9 p.m. at Spokane Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., Spokane.

Sept. 19, 6 to 9 p.m. at Newport High School, 1400 Fifth St., Newport.

Sept. 20, 6 to 9 p.m. at Priest River Event Center, 5399 U.S. 2, Priest River, Idaho

Sept. 27, 3 p.m., by online webinar.

After public input is considered, the Ecology Department will finalize what will be included in the state’s environmental review. The draft review is expected to be available for public comment next summer, with a final document out in late 2019.


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