Letter to the editor: Proposed hydrogen project is a bad deal for taxpayers


Has Richard DeBolt’s Economic Alliance of Lewis County placed a “for sale cheap” sign on Lewis County and its tax and electric ratepayers?

DeBolt’s Alliance supports giving an Australian company a hydrogen production plant costing tens if not hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, employing as few as 35 permanent workers while using an enormous amount of our limited supply of low-cost hydroelectric power. Anyone with a lick of sense should be asking: “If taxpayers are paying for this plant, why don’t taxpayers own it?” 

The Bonneville Power Administration or the Lewis County Public Utility District would be the obvious choices. If hydrogen is the fuel of the future, why isn’t Fortescue paying for its own plant?

Do the math. DeBolt has said the plant could cost up to $600 million taxpayer dollars. That works out to over $17 million per job, plus whatever increase Lewis County electric ratepayers may face when there isn’t enough hydroelectricity to meet demand. No one can blame Fortescue for trying to take advantage of taxpayer money. We should blame local leaders who are being paid or led by Fortescue. There is no reason we should commit 10 times the amount of energy now used by Centralia and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to give a hydrogen production plant free of charge to an Australian company to produce half as much usable energy as we get right now by directly using our low cost hydroelectric electricity to power our homes, businesses and manufacturing.

What we should be asking is why is DeBolt so interested in this project? We do know the Seattle Times newspaper reported that DeBolt was paid to support a failed, Chinese-backed energy project. We know the mayor of Centralia’s business has benefited financially. DeBolt’s Economic Alliance, Centralia College and the Centralia School District have all been paid or promised money if the gift of taxpayer money to Fortescue is approved. Who else is being paid? How much? But, as one supporter said: “Who cares, it’s free money!” No folks, it’s our money, our water and our economy dependent on access to low-cost hydroelectric power. 

Consider for a moment why our hydroelectric dam owners are only doing small hydrogen projects. What do they know that the hydrogen supporters in Lewis County don’t know? Is it that there is no electric line connecting us to China, limiting the market for conversion of our low cost hydroelectric power into high cost low efficiency hydrogen? If a hydrogen production makes sense, it would be produced at our existing hydroelectric projects and not given free of charge to an Australian company with major interests in China. If hydrogen is the “next big thing,” our existing hydroelectric projects would be producing it. The fact that their hydrogen projects are small should tell all of us why the Fortescue project makes no sense without the entire plant being paid for and given to it by us taxpayers.

Why did Fortescue choose Lewis County? Is it because we are badly led and “for sale cheap?”


Mike Hadaller

Lewis County PUD commissioner