BOCC writes to Wash. DOE on smelter, emphasize need for EIS

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Bonner County Commissioners approved a letter to the State of Washington Department of Ecology Tuesday regarding the proposed PacWest silicon smelter in Newport.

Commissioner Glen Bailey, who drafted the letter, said it is in response to the DOE’s request for comments on the proposed project.

The letter, addressed to Washington DOE Director Grant Pfeifer, mentioned both pros and cons the commissioners recognize might come with the construction of the smelter.

“We welcome the prospect of additional jobs that could provide employment for many people, and would be a big plus for our local economy. We also recognize the potential damage to our environment and transportation infrastructure that a poorly planned operations model could result in, and would have a devastating impact on our health, quality of life and economy,” Bailey read from the draft. “We are greatly encouraged that the PacWest silicon proposed project will be subjected to a stringent Environmental Impact Statement process that will determine if the project meets federal and state of Washington standards designed to prevent the negative impacts our citizens are concerned about and should not be subjected to.”

McDonald said he was comfortable with the drafted letter as it stood. He said he attended a recent scoping meeting regarding the smelter and that DOE officials seemed to have a “comprehensive grasp on what they need to look at.”

“This is obviously not their first rodeo,” McDonald said. 

Commissioner Jeff Connolly said he liked that the letter was “short and sweet,” noting that he’s read other comments submitted to the DOE and he believes many questions are being covered through other comments. He referenced Rep. Heather Scott’s (R-Blanchard) letter as an example of someone who went into further detail about their concerns in her submitted comments.

“This gets us there. You can talk about modeling, you can talk about all kinds of things, but I think that this just states that we have some concerns and we expect that they’ll keep us in the loop,” Connolly said.

Washington DOE is accepting comments on the project through this Friday, Oct. 26. Learn more or submit comments at and search “PacWest silicon smelter project.”

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