Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter recently issued Executive Order 2016-03, which, some might say ominously, renames the former “Office of Energy Resources” as the new “Office of Energy and Mineral Resources.”
The governor established the Office of Energy Resources (OER) through an executive order in 2007 to fulfill a recommendation made in Idaho’s 2007 Energy Plan, which suggested moving the state’s meager energy planning efforts from the Idaho Department of Water Resources to a freestanding agency under the governor’s control. OER was renewed in subsequent years through other gubernatorial orders, although clean energy advocates have long lamented the fact that neither the governor nor the Legislature support OER’s work with state funds. Instead, OER, which has withered over time due to the lack of state support, has mostly been left to chase federal or other grants to keep the lights on.
The governor did not formally announce his latest executive order, issued Oct. 18. The order says the rebranded office will “serve as Idaho’s clearing house and first point of contact for energy and mineral information including addressing policy inquiries, and providing information regarding issues.” It also says the new office will coordinate “the state’s energy and mineral planning development efforts” and advise the governor and the Legislature “of the state’s energy requirements, supply, transmission, management, conservation, and efficiency efforts.”
The governor’s order offers no clues as to how this new office will be staffed and funded, other than to say, “The office may accept private contributions, state or federal funds, funds from other public agencies, or any other sources.” In other words, Idaho’s state energy office will be left to seek funding from the kindness of strangers, as has always been the case.