Thousands of Pullman residents oppose proposal for biodiesel plant

An informational meeting about the proposed biodiesel plant leaves the people of Pullman with more questions



Brian Kraft (left), Chief Technology Officer of AgTech OS and other AgTech representatives answer questions from the community.

CHLOE EKSTROM, Evergreen reporter

The Port of Whitman County held an informational meeting Wednesday regarding the proposal to build a biodiesel plant near Pullman. Concerned citizens from all over Pullman came to get their questions answered. 

“I like the idea of the facility, their technology seems awesome but it’s the location that’s the problem,” said Tom Rodgers, retired Pullman business owner, said.

The proposed location is over 180 acres off Old Wawawai Road just outside Pullman City limits. About 80 acres of that land is within city limits and would need to be rezoned to heavy industrial and commercial land. 

AgTech OS, the local startup company that would build on the property has said the commercial land would be a buffer between the residential areas near the plant site. The application for rezoning the land has not been yet submitted. 

Officials from AgTech OS were at the meeting to answer common questions they have received from the public. Many of those questions revolved around the facility’s water usage, as well as any odor or traffic the facility would produce. 

“We are making biodiesel with virgin canola oil,” said Brian Kraft, chief technology officer of AgTech OS. “There is not going to be a smell associated with that.” 

It is estimated that the plant would be using about 200,000 gallons of water at any given time, though 95% of the water will be recycled meaning the facility would only use about 50 households worth of Pullman’s water. This amount of water is less than what would be used if the land was rezoned as residential. 

During harvest season, when traffic at the plant site is at its highest, Kraft said they would only be looking at 20 trucks maximum during daily operations. Farmers will also have the ability to fuel up on site and fuel trucks will be sent out to the combines to fuel farmers there, Kraft said. 

Pullman resident Gwen Anderson started a petition in early February opposing the rezoning of the city. The petition has over 3,500 signatures. 

In the petition, Anderson said the plant was a concern because of documented issues from where they have been built in other cities. Some concerns include noise, smell, air quality, water usage, traffic and public safety.

“We don’t need any more industrial land,” said Mike Beasley, Pullman resident and real estate broker. “We need more residential land for more homes.”

Marie Dymkoski, executive director of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, said they will not be taking a position on this issue.

The Port of Whitman County has bigger plans for the purchased property if the rezoning is approved, though the sale is contingent on the rezoning approval, Kraft said. If approved, the Port of Whitman County intends to create a space for businesses in the agricultural technology industry.

“One thing that is true about change is that it has to happen,” Kraft said. “Look at these challenges as opportunities for our future children and grandchildren.”