Hearings set on smelter proposal

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PRIEST RIVER — The Washington Department of Ecology is conducting public hearings later this month on PacWest Silicon’s controversial smelter proposal.

One hearing is set for Wednesday, Sept. 19 at Newport High School and another set for Thursday, Sept. 20 at the Priest River Event Center. Both hearings run from 6-9 p.m.

There will also be an online webinar at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, according to Washington DOE.

PacWest Silicon plans to build a smelter on more than 180 acres at the Washington-Idaho border to produce up to 73,000 tons of silicon metal each year. The process combines quartz rock, wood chips, coal and charcoal with extremely high temperatures to produce the metal.

The hearings are part of the state’s environmental review in order to prepare an environmental impact statement to evaluate the potential effects of developing a smelter in Newport.

The smelter proposal has run into stiff opposition on both sides of the state line over concerns that it will foul the environment through air pollution. However, there is also support for the project because of the prospect of additional jobs and economic growth.

Members of the public are encouraged to submit written comments (sepa.ecology.commentinput.com/?id=p4CsA). The comment period opened on Tuesday and closes on Thursday, Oct. 11, although Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter are requesting an extension on the comment deadline.

“After public input is considered, Ecology will finalize the scope of the EIS and expects to have the draft study available for public review and comment sometime next year. The final study will be an impartial, comprehensive document used as a resource for future decision-makers and the public to evaluate the company’s permit applications,” the department said in a statement announcing the hearings and comment period.

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