Port Of Whitman County Commissioners Continue To Move Forward With Proposal For Biodiesel Plant In Pullman Despite Growing Opposition

The Port of Whitman County Commissioners are moving forward with their plan to help develop a biodiesel plant in Pullman despite growing opposition.

The commissioners have agreed to buy about 200 acres of land South of Wawawai Road on the west edge of town.  The board has agreed to purchase the property next to the Whispering Hills Subdivision for 3.8 million dollars.  The sale will only be finalized if Pullman City Council agrees to rezone the plant site to heavy industrial from residential.

The port commissioners approved a site plan for their proposed Agriculture Advancement Campus during their meeting on Monday.  The plan calls for locating the biodiesel plant in the middle of the 88-acre campus.  The proposal calls for about 550 feet of buffer between the facility and the homes.  That buffer zone would include commercially zoned land and a path on a landscaped berm.

The local government agency’s role in the proposed development is to buy the land and pay for the infrastructure needed for the biodiesel plant.  A local startup company called AgTech OS would then build and operate the 111-million-dollar plant and process canola into fuel.  For the first time since the project gained public attention, representatives from AgTech OS discussed their idea with the port commissioners.  Connecticut-based professor Dr. Richard Parnas with AgTech OS says the canola biodiesel plant will be clean and sustainable.  You can listen to Dr. Parnas’s comments by clicking on the audio file below.

Dr. Parnas added that the biodiesel from the proposed plant will be safe enough to drink.

The port commissioners once again heard from Pullman residents speaking out against locating a biodiesel plant in a heavy industrial zone next to a neighborhood.  14 people spoke in opposition to the plan Monday morning compared to 9 concerned residents who spoke during a meeting last week.  An online petition opposing the plant has garnered nearly 400 signatures in a couple of days.  Dr. Nanda Grow lives in Whispering Hills and you can listen to her concerns below.

Mary Hoffman is from a local farming family that grows canola but she opposes developing a canola biodiesel facility next to homes.  You can hear Hoffman addressing the board by clicking on the audio file below.

Pullman realtor Joe Pitzer brought up a new argument opposing the plant pointing out that the city is nearly out of undeveloped land for new homes.  You can listen to Pitzer below.

 

The port commissioners approved the preliminary site plan allowing agency staff to submit their rezone application to the City of Pullman.  Commissioner Chairman Karl Webber says the port represents all of Whitman County not just Pullman.  You can listen to Commissioner Webber below.

Port Commissioner Kristine Meyer says proceeding with the rezone application will serve as a good learning exercise for the agency moving forward.  You can listen to Commissioner Meyer below.

The rezoning process will involve multiple opportunities for public comment with the City of Pullman.  Pullman City Council will ultimately decide on the rezone.