Editorials

Encouraging big ideas while minding the till

The Port of Pasco's approach to the big ideas of Green Power is one of caution and double-checking.

With good reason.

Green Power, a company owned by Michael Spitzauer, intends to turn garbage into gasoline, according to Spitzauer.

His hoped-for Pasco operations depend on continued use of a plot land at the port's Big Pasco site.

On paper, at least, it sounds exactly like the kind of operation that ports were created to support. We'd advise an abundance of caution in dealing with this company, however.

Throughout Washington, ports are major economic engines for the economy. The Port of Pasco, with river, trucking and rail connections and a fine airport, is more complex than many.

It is that very complexity that intensifies the rift between the port and Green Power.

Of course the port would like to bring about the new plant and 500 jobs promised by Spitzauer and contribute to cleaning up the environment, but Spitzauer is not the only person with big ideas.

He has proved to be a problematic tenant.

He gets behind in the rent, for starters.

The port evicted Green Power from its site in September after the state Department of Ecology closed it down for failing to get the necessary air quality permits before beginning operations.

Then in December, the port declared it would no longer deal with him because of the rent collection problems.

When Spitzauer showed up at the port with $90,000, officials refused to accept the money until the Port commission decided what to do with it. Commissioners agreed, reluctantly, to accept the payment.

Now they have extended Green Power's lease another six months, but with a list of conditions that includes increasing the security deposit.

Some years ago the Kennewick and Richland gave away rights to develop an amusement center in Columbia Park for nothing.

Nothing.

We'll never know whether Kennewick lost any attractive park development during the more than a year this absurd commitment was in effect.

Anyone looking for a development will just skip right over anyplace with such encumbrances upon it -- no matter how cheaply obtained.

The Port of Pasco doesn't make mistakes like that, but neither does it go to the other extreme of being a bureaucratic tangle that repels development.

It seems, to us, to have hit upon the right solution in this case.

It appears likely to be willing to continue accepting cash in advance, but with a caveat:

The tenant, Green Power, must come up with additional deposits to guarantee that if, after all, its business plan fails there will still be sufficient funds to raze the structure without giving the bill to the taxpayers.

That is a responsible decision that does the port credit.

Spitzauer has a big dream. We hope he pulls it off.

But the port must protect taxpayers.

No matter how big the dream, there are always technicalities and pitfalls to making it come true.

Spitzauer has encountered plenty of them.

The port has taken the right approach, to accommodate where it can but to keep an eye, resolutely, on its responsibilities.

No matter the outcome for Green Power, the port will have played its role perfectly.

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