Letter to the editor: Welcoming the green energy economy


We have a wonderful economic success story happening in real time for Centralia and Lewis County. Just north of Centralia, at the TransAlta and Industrial Park at TransAlta (also known as IPAT) sites, an entire new economic sector is growing with rapid and diverse private investment. Building on our legacy as an energy producer for Washington state, we are making the switch from being a coal town to being a leader in green energy. Multiple companies are exploring locating here and investing in us. They include: energy fusion companies, a test site for hydrogen powered trucks used globally in the mining industry, and a green hydrogen producer. Collectively, they represent more than $100 million in private investment. Additionally, Washington state won a bid to the federal Department of Energy to be the green hydrogen hub for the United States. The Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub will now receive $1 billion in federal money for multiple projects in the Northwest, with a significant percentage coming right here. 

This private investment is a welcome relief. We’ve waited years for the next “big thing” to come to Lewis County and state regulations have disrupted our coal mine, steam plant, timber industry and agricultural industries. Now, as these companies build, the property value of the IPAT and TransAlta sites will increase significantly. This will provide much needed tax dollars to our Centralia School District and Riverside Fire Authority. It could mean that your property taxes are reduced since these companies will contribute to the overall levy assessments of both organizations. 

These companies are on the leading edge of green energy innovation. They are inventing new technologies right here in Lewis County. Like all new technology, we can expect to see their products improve with each new iteration and become more efficient and effective. It is exciting to think that we may be the location where green energy innovations get their start before being used in many other places. The associated jobs represent a wide range of work, from unskilled labor to technical and vocational certified positions to graduate level research and engineering roles. As these companies grow, I hope our own local students find great jobs that keep them here at home in our community. 

We have a front row seat to our own transformation from coal town to green energy producer. This is a once-in-a generation change that will help write the new story of Centralia. Many local leaders have worked tirelessly on our behalf to create this economic opportunity. I am grateful for their vision and dedication to our community and excited for the opportunities these new companies bring. 


Kelly Smith Johnston

mayor of Centralia