Our Voice: Port of Pasco's decision to renew Green Power's lease makes best of bad situation

February 27, 2013 

We're guessing many of you were just as surprised as we were to read that the Port of Pasco has given Green Power yet another chance.

For those of you not familiar with the saga, here's some background: Green Power has a long history of not paying its rent and has had its lease with the port for a still unfinished biofuels plant terminated only to be renewed.

The port has twice filed in Superior Court to evict the company. A summary judgment of $234,000 was issued last fall, and the company was evicted.

To put it mildly, Green Power has had more than its share of chances. Court records show the company owes about $20 million to investors and a former employee. There also are issues with Labor & Industries, fines from the Department of Ecology for building without a permit, three filings for bankruptcy protection that eventually were withdrawn, and a host of complaints from employees and vendors who say they weren't paid and investors who say they were ripped off.

But here we are, with the Port of Pasco signing a six-month lease agreement again this month with the beleaguered Green Power. The company seemingly has more lives than a cat.

Company CEO Michael Spitzauer agreed to a set of conditions when he delivered a cashier's check for $496,000 to the port. That money covers the court judgment and rent from January 1 to June 30, as well as a $100,000 increase in his security deposit.

Spitzauer had 20 days from the time of the lease signing to come into compliance or face eviction, including removal of waste and rodents in the facility.

The eviction notification requirement was reduced to three days in the new agreement. The last time the port evicted Green Power, it took nearly three months.

While all those conditions appear well and good, what it really sounds like is that the port expects to have to evict Green Power again.

Port Commissioner Ron Reimann voted against the new lease, telling Spitzauer that Green Power has not operated in the best interest of the port. That's putting it mildly.

On the other hand, we can see the port's dilemma. It has a partially built biofuels plant on its property and a big mess on its hands if the port has to clean it up.

We expect if Spitzhauer fails to pay his landlord, he has failed to pay vendors who provided equipment for the plant. Liens, judgments and more court cases surely would be part of the mix, making a long process for the port to eventually reclaim its land in full.

We can understand the port's desire to pursue an alternative to eviction, even if the odds appear stacked against success.

And the guy did show up with a check. Being paid late is better than not being paid at all. The port has been made whole for what it is owed and pre-paid for the Green Power lease until June 30.

"This was not an easy decision to make," said commission President Jean Ryckman.

We get that. But if we had to guess, we'd say that come June 30, the port will be right back in the business of trying to figure out how to get rid of Green Power once and for all. The company has failed to meet its commitments every other time. We're not sure why this round will be any different.

Even so, kicking the can down the road one more time appears to be the port's best option.

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