Mayor’s Smelter Opposition…

Dear Editor,

Shelby Rognstad’s opposition to the proposed silicon refinery in Newport (“Proposed smelter in Newport would be bad for Sandpoint,” November 2) strikes me as knee-jerk dogmatism.

The Canadian manufacturer and Washington’s Department of Ecology are still discussing how best to model air quality impacts, but Mr. Rognstad has already concluded that the project will damage Sandpoint’s health, economy and property values. His facts come from an unsigned internet blog devoid of citations.

The solar energy future we hope for will require massive amounts of polysilicon for solar panels. China, not a country noted for environmental sensitivity, is currently the world’s dominant manufacturer of silicon. Along comes a Canadian company wanting to buy our renewable hydro power and promising their factory will meet all environmental laws, even if they are tightened in response to their application. Perhaps the mayor is right, and the Canadians are not to be believed, and both the Idaho and Washington authorities are unable or unwilling to expose their lies. Perhaps we should send HiTest packing for China, where growing numbers of coal-fired power plants can feed their factory. But shouldn’t we at least hear what they have to say before pronouncing judgment?

When the mayor presents his resolution to the City Council I hope the lawmakers will delay action long enough for the departments of environmental quality to do their job and study the proposal before urging them to reject it.

Alan Barber

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