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Governor’s New Energy Office A Good Idea – If It’s Funded

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Governor’s New Energy Office A Good Idea – If It’s Funded
Snake River Alliance News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 24, 2007

CONTACT INFORMATION
Ken Miller, Snake River Alliance Clean Energy Program Director
(208) 344-9161 office
(208) 841-6982 cell

Gov. Butch Otter’s decision to create a new Office of Energy Resources is a welcome step toward promoting new state energy policies, but the new office must be adequately funded and staffed in order to do its job, the Snake River Alliance said.

Gov. Otter last week issued Executive Order 2007-11, which creates the new energy office within the Governor’s Office. The effect of the order will be to transfer the existing Idaho Energy Division from its current home in the Idaho Department of Water Resources to the newly created Office of Energy Resources. The order also assigns the new energy office with several new duties that the old Energy Division did not have.

“Assuming the governor provides the new Office of Energy Resources with the funds and personnel required to carry out its new responsibilities, this is a logical step forward in implementing energy policies that are long overdue in Idaho,” said Ken Miller, Clean Energy Program Director at the Snake River Alliance. “For too long, the Energy Division has languished in the Department of Water Resources without the funding needed to do its job.”

For two years, clean energy advocates have pushed to reform how Idaho handles the myriad energy issues that are growing in importance. The 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, adopted by the Legislature earlier this year, includes recommendations to add more duties to the Energy Division. The Legislature’s energy plan also includes dozens of recommendations to improve energy policies in Idaho, but only a few were adopted in the last session and the outlook is the same for the 2008 session.

“The new state energy plan was a tentative step toward sound energy policies for Idaho, but so far its recommendations have not been implemented,” Miller said. “We can only hope this new initiative by Gov. Otter will move Idaho forward. Many Idaho cities are already taking the initiative to develop comprehensive plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy, and use energy more efficiently. It’s well past time the state followed suit.”

For years, the old Idaho Energy Division has been funded almost entirely by whatever federal and other grants it could secure, so its mission was driven more by those grants than the need to strategically plan for Idaho’s energy future. Assuming Gov. Otter’s new Energy Resources Office is adequately funded, it could undertake specific new responsibilities outlined by the governor, including:

– Overseeing energy planning, policy and coordination and advising the governor, the Legislature and other officials of Idaho’s energy requirements and supply; its transmission needs; and conservation and efficiency opportunities.
– Providing technical assistance to all state agencies and local governments on energy conservation projects and renewable energy resource opportunities, and helping them secure funding for energy conservation and renewable energy projects.
– Serving as a clearinghouse for information and data on energy supplies, transmission, and energy-saving measures.
– Assisting in development of energy-efficient technologies.

“These are important functions for a state energy office, and until now no state agency or department was charged with doing it in a comprehensive way,” Miller said. “For this new office to do its job, the governor must include funding in his coming budget proposal in January – and the Legislature must provide that funding.”

The Alliance also questioned why the governor decided to change the status of the energy office staffers from “classified” state employees to non-classified, or at-will, employees. The change in status could make it easier for the employees, many of whom have worked at the Energy Division for several years, to be terminated or replaced without cause.

To download the full executive order, go to www.gov.idaho.gov and go to the news and media section and executive orders.

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