Letter to the editor: Timing, location and leadership provide opportunities for Lewis County 


As Washington state competes to secure more than 1 billion in federal grants to help spur the development of our state’s green hydrogen economy, the work of our local elected leaders and forward-looking citizens deserves praise. 

County commissioners Sean Swope and Scott Brummer, state Rep. Peter Abbarno and Centralia Mayor Kelly Smith Johnston are working alongside community stakeholders to position Lewis County at the forefront of green hydrogen production. We have the basic infrastructure for furthering public and private investment in the kind of clean energy innovation that will bring jobs and new economic opportunities. 

I worked on the frontlines helping with a reasonable schedule for the shutdown of TransAlta’s coal generation plant as a duty to protect workers and our community from an effort to shutter the plant as early as 2015. Our community needed and deserved a smooth landing, while other communities in the nation suffered a crash when their plants were shut down. The times and locations are right to foster an opportunity for green hydrogen production as well as the commitment to preserve high-wage jobs for workers and maintain a strong community while we transition to a clean energy economy. 

We are at the right time with infrastructure that will enable our area to benefit from a green energy production plant like the one that Fortescue has proposed to site at the Industrial Park at TransAlta. I also know since the announcement of Fortescue's plant there are several other green energy projects in the works in Lewis County, including a green hydrogen refueling station for Twin Transit, First Mode hydrogen-fueled mining equipment Fusion Energy as well as Bio Diversity Opportunity zone analysis. It is also interesting to me that Fortescue has met with our Lewis County PUD and said the operation of their plant will not have a direct impact on the ratepayers.

I believe green hydrogen production is going to happen across the nation. Our state is advancing a broad green hydrogen strategy through the work of the PPacific Northwest Hydrogen Association, a public-private partnership that brings together government, industry, organized labor, tribal nations and environmental advocates in pursuit of $1 billion in federal money that can be invested in Washington state. Lewis County is in the right place and has the infrastructure and visionary citizens to be a part of this.

By continuing on this journey of opportunity, Lewis County is at the right place at the right time to honor our workforce and our community and help shape the future where prosperity is underpinned by a commitment to sustainable growth, continued innovation and community investment. 

Our Economic Alliance board members are supportive of this effort and Centralia College stands ready to help train the workers of the future. I have asked a question of myself many times. Wouldn't it be great if we could all have a chance to keep our kids in the area with good jobs and help raise the grandkids?


Bob Guenther

President of the Thurston Lewis Mason Central Labor Council