SANDPOINT — Counsel for Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter are scrutinizing the real estate transaction that resulted in HiTest Sand’s acquisition of property for the proposed facility.
“Serious questions about how HiTest came to be the owners of the land in question have been raised and will continue to be looked at, and will be pursued vigorously,” CANSS attorney Norm Semanko told Pend Oreille County commissioners during a presentation on Monday, March 26.
During update presentation of CANSS membership at the Hospitality House in Newport later that same day, Semanko said the “serious questions” emerged after poring over public records requests.
“We’re not prepared to tell you exactly what the conclusion is yet. We’re still looking at it,” Semanko told the group.
However, Semanko went on to say that HiTest, a company based in Canada, was not registered with the state of Washington at the time it purchased property from the Pend Oreille Public Utility District.
“A foreign entity may not do business in this state until it registers with the secretary of state,” said Semanko.
Semanko is urging officials from Pend Oreille County, the PUD and HiTest carefully study the transaction and their various options, which include invalidating the real estate transaction.
“If they don’t do it voluntarily, we are researching other possible mechanisms for returning the property from HiTest back to the public,” Semanko said, eliciting a round of applause from CANSS members.
HiTest Sands officials said they were not fazed by CANSS’ assertions.
“In brief, we and our attorneys are not concerned about this at all. Unfortunately, CANSS has to rely upon lies and their own fabricated facts. There is zero issue with the land transfer. We have multiple companies, both Canadian and American to properly handle all of our business interests,” HiTest CEO Jayson Tymko said on Tuesday.
The Washington Secretary of State’s website indicates HiTest incorporated in the state on Feb. 27 as a foreign profit corporation.
In other smelter developments, the Pend Oreille County Commission announced on Tuesday that it is asking the Washington Department of Ecology to conduct a thorough review of the project’s environmental impacts on both sides of the state line.
Commissioner Mike McManus said in a statement that Grant Pfeifer, regional director of DOE, has assured the board that it will allow no shortcuts or special privileges during the review process.
“Grant will be enlisting Idaho and Montana departments of environmental quality as a part of the SEPA process,” Manus said, referring to the State Environmental Policy Act. “I have lived in Pend Oreille County since 1995 and plan on being here the rest of my life. I want clean air and clean water. I also want jobs for our children and grandchildren.”
The commission also pointed out that it requested last fall that the Northeast Tri-County Health District conduct a Health Impact Assessment that will be overseen by the Washington State Department of Health and an independent third party.
“We believe that the results of this HIA will bring together the science, public input and expertise of health professionals to minimize risks and provide necessary information to make appropriate decisions that benefit all parties involved,” Commissioner Karen Skoog said in the November 2017 letter.
The county is also asking DOE to conduct site-specific air pattern and weather evaluations.
“Due to the proposed location of the facility being very close to the state border with Idaho, I am sure that the state of Idaho, along with Washington state and federal regulators, will be monitoring all the potential environmental impacts of any development,” Commissioner Steve Kiss said in a statement.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.