Court denies appeal in smelter land sale case

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

The Division III Court of Appeals in Washington state released an opinion April 21 affirming the legality of the sale of land from the Public Utility District in Pend Oreille County to PacWest Silicon, despite allegations from local anti-smelter organizations that the PUD violated code in doing so.

Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter and Responsible Growth*NE Washington filed the lawsuit against the PUD, Pend Oreille County and PacWest’s parent company HiTest Sand, Inc. After the Spokane Superior Court upheld the land sale, CANSS and RG*NEW filed an appeal on July 24, 2019. The anti-smelter groups received the unpublished opinion from the court of appeals on April 21, which also ruled in favor of the PUD.

“We disagree with the opinion in large part because, essentially, what the court of appeals said is that a public utility district can — after the fact, after a property has been purchased or sold — come up with an excuse for why those actions occurred,” lawyer Rick Eichstaedt, who represents the anti-smelter groups, told the Sandpoint Reader. “Not only are we upset in regards to this specific property, but we think it sets a dangerous precedent.”

Eichstaedt said he and his clients will convene soon and consider what to do next, including asking the Idaho State Supreme Court to review the case.

“This is a loss, but I think, frankly, the community has been winning,” Eichstaedt said, making note of the Pend Oreille county commissioners’ denial of a rezone that would have opened PacWest’s property to industrial use, as well as the company’s difficulties in securing an environmental impact statement. 

“[The lawsuit regarding the land sale] is an important battle, but this won’t decide whether or not the smelter is built,” he said.

PacWest CEO Jayson Tymko has been on record saying that the smelter project is “on hold.”

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