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Murrow College of Communication at WSU

Cautious optimism in Pullman as biodiesel plant canceled

Plans for a proposed biodiesel in Pullman may have collapsed but residents near the site are still wary.

“We don’t believe they’re done,” said Jim Carr, a retired science teacher whose house would have been 500 feet away from the plan. “We don’t even know if AgTech OS won’t come back.”

AgTech OS, a local startup created last year, announced Tuesday the company plans to move their proposed $111 million biodiesel facility to an alternate location. The site was previously set to be built within city limits on Wawawei Road, next to a housing subdivision.

In a press release, CEO Ernest Spicer said the proposed plant created “overwhelming negative sentiment” in the community, and that the company would look for another location.

Former Pullman City Council member Brandon Chapman said he applauds residents for getting involved and voicing their concerns.

“I’m glad this facility is not going in next to a neighborhood,” Chapman said. “It would be a nice addition to our state, but not a nice addition to our community.”

AgTech OS’s proposed 550,000-square-foot facility was originally intended to serve as the primary tenant for an agricultural advancement center. According to the Port of Whitman County, plans to develop the center – now renamed the Industrial Research Park – are still moving forward. The Port agreed to purchase the land for $3.8 million earlier this year.

In February, Gov. Jay Inslee traveled to Pullman to endorse the project, which would have produced more than 10 million gallons of biodiesel annually and employed 44 people, according to the company. But local residents campaigned against the project in a public hearing and online.

While some residents have celebrated AgTech OS’s departure, Carr said the fight against industrial rezoning is far from over.
“We don’t believe they’re [the Port] done,” Carr said. “We don’t even know if AgTech OS won’t come back.”

Carr said he is worried about the Port wanting to bring more industrial ventures into residential areas. He also said local school districts are planning to build schools in the same area as the Port’s proposed Industrial Research Park.

“Buses of kids will be coming in and out of that area,” Carr said. “Industrial just doesn’t fit.”

Carr said the lack of communication between the Port and local residents has been disheartening. Carr said he does not believe the Port speaks to the interests of the community, and that rezoning residential land for industrial use would close off the city for growth.

“They are determining that the city will be known for industrial as opposed to homes, families, and community,” Carr said.



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