09 Oct

PacWest Silicon Smelter Comment Period is Open

From Ecology: PacWest Silicon Smelter Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Public Comment Period – September 11, 2018 – October 26, 2018

PacWest Silicon is proposing to build a smelter near the city of Newport in Pend Oreille County. The manufacturing process converts quartz rock (supplied by the company HiTest Sand) into silicon metal that can be used in aluminum, silicone polymer, and polysilicon production.

Ecology has determined that this project may have significant impacts on the environment and will be conducting a full State Environmental Policy Act review of these impacts. A report called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be developed to detail the findings. As the lead agency for the environmental review, Ecology will develop the EIS to study impacts of the project on the surrounding environment. The first step in this process is to collect information from the public about what should be included in the environmental review, also called the scope.
We are looking for information about what we should study and how we should study it.

View more information about the PacWest project, including project documents and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Use the WA Department of Ecology online comment form.
Preliminary comments from The Lands Council:
Residents of Pend Oreille and Bonner Counties are rightfully concerned about the emissions that might come from the facility, including sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, carbon dioxides and particulate matter. Specifically we ask that the following be considered in the scoping for this project.

1. The use of coal from Kentucky is one option for providing the carbon needed in the smelting process. We believe there are better options that would substantially reduce the sulfur dioxide. One of those options would be to use locally produced biochar. Biochar, which is activated carbon, can be produced from wood or agricultural waste products, such as slash piles, milling residue, crop residue and other plant materials. It would be much lower in sulfur content, create jobs locally and would also avoid transportation costs and diesel emissions. We ask that the feasibility of this option be analyzed.
2. Power plants, smelters, industrial furnaces, waste-to-energy plants, etc all release nitrous oxides. Filters and scrubbers can eliminate much of this nitrous oxide, which like sulfur dioxide can lead to acid rain. We ask that a thorough analysis of reducing the nitrous oxides be analyzed and that state of the art nitrous oxide emission reduction be part of the plan. We also would like other expected air emissions be addressed, including PM2.5 emissions.
3. The carbon dioxide emissions are very large. A claim is made that the silicon that was produced would be used in solar panels. Is there any guarantee that this would actually occur, and if so, what commitment is PacWest making?

We understand that the proposed location of the smelter moved from one controversial site to another. Is the current siting a given or will Ecology look at other areas in Pend Oreille County, such as north of Metaline Falls?

There have been claims about water usage and the source of that water. Please offer an accurate assessment of the water issue.

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05 Oct

Bears, Cougars, and Wolves

Join Western Wildlife Outreach and The Lands Council for an evening exploring the natural history and current status of Washington’s bears, cougars and wolves. Learn how to safely recreate in the backcountry.

Friday, October 12th at 6:00 pm at REI Spokane.

Find more information here:

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04 Oct

Vote Yes on Initiative 1631

Building a cleaner future together
Our state has a legacy of protecting the home we all share: prioritizing our health and a world-class economy. We enjoy that quality of life because we invest in our communities.
But we know if we don’t act now, the threat of pollution will only get worse and cause more harm to our communities and our kids’ health. I-1631 is a practical first step to ensure clean air and clean water for everyone in Washington and gives us the chance to pass on a healthier state to the next generation.

Who Supports I-1631?
After years of work, our coalition is led and supported by over 250 organizations, representing scientists, environmental and clean-energy advocates, working families, communities of color, health professionals, businesses, faith leaders, and tribal nations who have come together to pass this practical solution

What Does I-1631 Do?
As Washingtonians we all do our part to keep our state clean. But right now the largest polluters can pollute for free while the rest of us pay the costs. I-1631 would put a fee on the state’s largest polluters, like the oil industry and utilities that have not switched over to clean-energy, and invest in protecting our air and water and building new clean-energy infrastructure across the state. We know with this initiative, we can protect our health, build new good paying jobs, and ensure a cleaner future for the next generation.

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28 Sep

TLC’s Letter to Ecology Re: Newport Silicon Smelter

Newport Smelter

We write to submit documented written comments related to the proposed HiTest Silicon smelter proposed for location in Pend Orielle County, near Newport, Washington. Within we identify our concerns and requests related to air quality analysis modeling.

According to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), Chapters 173-400-700 to 750 (, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) must conduct a review of all new major stationary sources under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permitting Program. One component of this program requires that new major stationary sources conduct air quality analysis modeling. To ensure that this modeling is accurate, Preventions of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit applicants are required to submit a modeling protocol for Ecology approval. The modeling protocol being suggested by HiTest is the AERMOD modeling program.

We request that Ecology consider the following recommendations, before approving HiTest’s modeling protocol.

The AERMOD Modeling Program is recommended by the USEPA for estimating the impact of new or existing sources of pollution on ambient air quality levels at source-receptor distances of less than 50 km. The program constructs hypothetical distribution models for pollutants based on inputted meteorological data. The current proposal from HiTest Silicon will use non site specific meteorological data to construct a distribution model. Essentially hypothetical data inputted into a hypothetical model. The results of such a model are insufficient to determine potential dispersion from the HiTest site.

The Lands Council calls for the Department of Ecology to require HiTest to collect, at a minimum, one full calendar year of on-site (site-specific) meteorological monitoring data for both Class I and Class II modeling prior to proceeding with the air permitting process. It is vital that on site data be used to model pollutant dispersal. Using AERMOD or the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) is only acceptable if real data collection is cost prohibitive or infeasible. Neither is the case for the proposed HiTest site.

The unique meteorological and topographic features specific to the area where the smelter is proposed would influence emission dispersal due to the distinctive valley and mountain topography of the Pend Oreille River Valley. Elevations in the Washington portion of the Pend Oreille River sub basin are highly variable, ranging between 1,700 feet to more than 7,300 feet above mean sea level. The mountain ranges associated with higher elevations in this area are located perpendicular to the prevailing weather, which leads to site specific air movement as air masses are forced to rise and cool along the varied topography.

The proposed data observations from a 10-meter meteorological tower operated by the Idaho Department of Transportation (ID41, mesowest ITDA8, Old Town) and National Weather Service surface data observations from Deer Park, WA. Upper air data will be prepared using NWS data from Spokane, Washington, appear to have a high likelihood of under-representing the weather conditions typical of the proposed smelter site. The Deer Park station is located roughly 23 miles from the proposed smelter site and, as a result, is located in an area with a far different topography, and likely weather patterns, more closely associated with the steppe or plains topography of central Washington.

While the ITD station near Old Town is closer to the proposed site, roughly 1.25 miles away, we are concerned that this particular weather station may not meet the applicable EPA sensor siting guidelines. If this is the case, the data collected from this station will be insufficient to properly conduct the air quality impact analysis required under the PSD Program.

We call for Ecology to require HiTest collect the most accurate and representative meteorological data, from which an accurate air quality impact assessment may be developed. To achieve this, we request Ecology require HiTest collect at least a full calendar year’s worth of on-site weather data.

We recommend Ecology require that HiTest model, as a condition of its PSD modeling obligations, the deposition of the pollution associated with the proposed smelter in order to evaluate any impacts to lichen growth in the surrounding area. Several species of lichen in this area are critical to the survival of the federally endangered South Selkirk herd of woodland caribou. South Selkirk herd subsist almost exclusively on lichen during the winter months.

Lichen have been shown to be sensitive to air pollution. Lichens can be harmed by a variety of pollutants, including the following HiTest smelter emissions; sulphur and nitrous oxides, which reduce to sulphuric and nitric acids (components of acid rain), fluorides, ozone, hydrocarbons, metals such as copper, lead, and zinc as well as particulate matter.

HiTest has proposed a smelting facility with two arc furnaces, but leaves room for two additional furnaces to be constructed on site. Given HiTest’s willingness shape its current plans to accommodate more furnaces, HiTest should be equally willing to apply this forward-thinking approach to its PSD modeling protocol.

The prudent and responsible approach to this project requires HiTest develop and apply its dispersion modeling, using on site meteorological data and include an air quality impact assessment reflecting the full potential of four furnaces.

On a related note, we would ask Ecology to consider an air model run where the HiTest smelter uses charcoal (or biochar) as a reductant, instead of coal. This would eliminate most of the sulphur dioxide emissions, as well as reduce mercury and lead emissions.

Mike Petersen

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28 Sep

8th Annual Reforest Spokane Day


For seven years, The Lands Council and hundreds of volunteers have gathered together for a very special day: Reforest Spokane Day!

In three hours, thousands of trees are planted and a sense of community pride and stewardship established. This is the underlying mission of Reforest Spokane Day: to continue to plant trees as a community until future generations in the beautiful Inland Northwest are surrounded by one million trees that symbolize community, stewardship, and dedication.

This year, on Saturday, October 13th from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Lands Council volunteers will set out to reforest Spokane by planting in Highbridge Park.

Volunteers will achieve community benefits such as:

  • Providing much-needed shade, especially in urban areas;
  • Reducing traffic noise;
  • Stormwater absorption resulting in cleaner watersheds;
  • Creating habitat for wildlife species;
  • And an increasing visual presence of our wonderful city.

Parking: Stay tuned!

VolunteerSign up here!

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28 Sep

Era of Megafires Presentation



Join us for a free presentation of The Era of Megafires, a 60-minute multi-media presentation about the rise of highly destructive megafires—wildfires over 100,000 acres. The presentation combines the research of Dr. Paul Hessburg (Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service) with the visual storytelling of award-winning film company, North 40 Productions.

October 16th at 6:30 pm at Spokane Community College Auditorium

Doors open at 6:00 pm
Film presentation at 6:30 pm
Discussion of local concerns at 7:30 pm
Q&A session at 7:45 pm

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31 Aug

Storm Garden

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20 Aug

Spokane River, PCBs, and The Lands Council

The Lands Council works to protect and enhance the Spokane River. Today the river faces threats from PCBs, harmful chemicals that reach the river through stormwater. Learn how The Lands Council uses Low Impact Development to solve this problem and how you can help. Video produced by Corner Booth Media.

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05 Sep

Project SUSTAIN Crowdswell

The Lands Council helps restore the connection between youth and nature by providing water resource-based field trips and complimentary classroom lessons to Spokane area alternative high schools. With your help we can add one more high school class to the list and teach more students to be environmental stewards. Video produced by Corner Booth Media.

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05 Sep

Green Sleeves Crowdswell

The Lands Council wants to install a greenhouse at the local jail, Geiger Corrections Center. Already we offer job training classes and teach offenders how to manage an on-site native plant nursery. With your help we can take it one step further and build a greenhouse to teach further propagation techniques. Video produced by Corner Booth Media

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