Letter to the editor: Hydrogen hub should be viewed as a positive step for our community


Recently, there has been a lot of political drama around $1 billion in federal funding, Fortescue, the Economic Alliance of Lewis County and the Lewis County Commission. Drama aside, there is confusion around information, which is driving questions around the $1 billion. 

Recently, Commissioner Lindsey Pollock posed questions and comments because she did not receive answers for the information she asked for. The following is what I found in my brief research into her questions. I have provided supporting links with this letter.

Schools not seeing property tax benefit? 

I may be wrong, but I do not see where Fortescue would fall under the designation of a State Assessed Utility and qualify for the recent Green Energy Tax Incentive, which would give them an exemption from the assessed utility tax. I would assume this facility will be assessed as any other business property in Lewis County. With that will come taxes for our schools depending on the valuation of their property. There are federal incentives under the inflation reduction act that they should qualify for, but those incentives would not impact local tax rolls directly. Regardless, the incentives are there to encourage moving away from fossil fuels and toward more planet-friendly and sustainable energy choices.

300 megawatts (MW) needed to power the facility? 

The loss of the coal plants’ MW capacity has been planned for years and will be replaced with renewable sources from the power grid. The power Fortescue will use will come from renewable sources (primarily hydro and abundant), which is why Washington is attractive as a net-neutral choice. They will have to purchase their power, which will mean income to another Northwest power producer — a positive for other PNW renewable jobs in other communities.

Hydrogen going to China? 

One article shows that produced hydrogen is earmarked for multiple Western Washington entities already, including Amazon, heavy truck maker PACCAR, and the Northwest Seaport Alliance.

Where are the jobs? 

The exact number is unclear as the scope of the project is not determined. Sean Swope is way off base in quoting 10,000 jobs in The Chronicle. The 10,000 is for the entire Northwest hydrogen hub, which includes other locations, and the number includes construction jobs (over 8,000 of the 10,000). Regardless, 35 to 65 permanent high-paying jobs are better than zero if that is the number.

Overall, we should look at this project as a positive for the direction our community should go. It demonstrates prudent use of existing land and infrastructure and leaves room for other businesses at the same location in the future. Bigger is not always better. It is less risky not to rely on one or two large employers in our community and spread the job base around to a variety of business segments. It is a good approach to start branding our community as an innovative hub with progressive and forward-thinking intentions. This will encourage further investment into our community. We will all benefit from that in the long run.


Matt Evans