PO County PUD voids smelter agreement

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

The Pend Oreille Public Utility District issued a letter and refund Dec. 11 to PacWest Silicon CEO Jayson Tymko, terminating the agreement meant to provide power to the proposed smelter in Newport, Wash.

Photo courtesy of Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter Facebook page.

The letter reveals that it’s been more than six months since the PUD has heard from PacWest.

“The District, as a nonprofit public entity, generally closes out work orders, requests for service, and contracts that are no longer active at the end of the year,” PUD General Manager F. Colin Willenbrock wrote in the letter.

Enclosed in the letter was a $315,764.64 check — a partial refund for the initial deposit PacWest made for the agreement, totaling $500,000.

PacWest has remained silent since early October, when the Pend Oreille County hearing examiner struck down an appeal from anti-smelter group Responsible Growth*Northeast Washington after the county planning and zoning board approved a blanket rezone of areas zoned “public lands.” At the time, Tymko told the Spokesman-Review that the company viewed itself as a “patient [landowner] in the area waiting for some of the local issues to be resolved,” and that for PacWest, “the largest [issue] is the zoning,” since the company’s property currently does not allow industrial uses.

PacWest has been clear about the importance of rezoning to the future of the smelter.

“PacWest can not apply for a Conditional Use Permit for their property until something is done to reform the current county zoning laws,” company representative Mike Welch told the Reader in an email March 26.

When Pend Oreille County commissioners denied the blanket rezone of public lands on Dec. 9, anti-smelter activists considered it a major victory. Commissioners maintain that their decision had nothing to do with the smelter and that the rezone can be better addressed during upcoming 2020 Comprehensive Plan workshops.

PacWest did not respond to requests for comment on the PUD letter before press time.

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