Port Of Whitman County Commissioners Move Forward With Rezone Request For Proposed Biodiesel Plant In Pullman After Hearing Opposition From Several Residents

The Port of Whitman County Commissioners are moving forward with their plan to help develop a biodiesel plant in Pullman after hearing strong opposition from several local residents.

The board publicly discussed the details of their proposal for the first time during their meeting on Wednesday.  The commissioners clarified that their unanimous decision during last week’s brief special meeting to accept an offer to buy land on the West end of town has a key contingency.  The sale of the roughly 200 acres to the port will only be finalized if the City of Pullman agrees to rezone the property to heavy industrial.  That zone is required to operate the proposed biodiesel plant between the Whispering Hills Subdivision and the Hinrichs Trading Company Ardent Mills garbanzo plant on Wawawai Road.

The commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the rezone request to the city after listening to 9 local residents voice their opposition to a biodiesel plant next to the residential neighborhood.  Mary Hoffman’s family farms on the Palouse and grows canola which would be bought by the plant but she opposes the location.  You can listen to Hoffman’s comments by clicking on the audio file below.

The commissioners revealed that the plant needs 50 acres which will allow for a buffer between the homes and the facility on the roughly 100 acres (Sites A & B) that are requested for the rezone.  You can listen to Port Commissioner Tom Kammerzell explain by clicking on the audio file below.

Port Commission Chairman Karl Webber says they need to let the rezone process play out.  You can listen to Commissioner Webber’s comments by clicking on the audio file below.

Port Commissioner Kristine Meyer agreed as she explains in the audio file below.

The concerned residents spoke during a second public comment opportunity after the board agreed to proceed with the rezone request.  During the meeting port officials revealed that their private partner company in the biodiesel plant AgTech OS had started a website to explain the project.  Justin Glover then voiced his concerns with the board about the new local startup company.  You can hear Glover’s comments by clicking on the audio file below.

 

Nanda Grow lives in the Whispering Hills Subdivision and told the elected officials at the end of the meeting that she felt like their voices were not being heard.  You can hear her comments at the link below.

 

The plan calls for the local government agency to buy the land and pay for the infrastructure needed for the AgTech OS biodiesel plant.  The facility would turn local canola into fuel for local farms.  AgTech OS posted on their just launched website here  that their plant will have “very little if any negative effects on air quality.”  That the facility will “not generate significant odors” or noise because the plant would be inside buildings.  That the facility would recycle 95% of its water and produce “nominal wastewater.”  According to the AgTech OS website, the plant would receive about 15 truckloads of canola a day during harvest, and about 5 trucks a day would come and go during the rest of the year.

The rezone request to the City of Pullman will involve several opportunities for public comment and would ultimately be decided by Pullman City Council.

If the rezone is approved the port will pay 3.8 million dollars for the land.  The plant would initially create 44 jobs.