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The Snake River Alliance took action today to protect the future of rooftop solar in Idaho. The Alliance intervened in an Idaho Power request to change the net metering program for people who generate green energy at home. Although this first proposal would not change rates (it would just establish a new customer class) we expect that much more is at stake.

Solar is good for Idaho’s electric grid. It generates power where we need it and when we need it the most. It fits our communities in a way carbon-spewing gas turbines and coal plants never will. It is the way of the future. For the first time ever, in March 2017, solar and wind provided a monthly average of 10% of America’s energy.

An estimated 1,500 Idaho Power customers use the net metering program to manage power generated by their own solar panels or wind generators. These customers get energy credits to use later but still pay monthly fees to be connected to the grid. The company eventually wants to increase the fees and change the terms and conditions of those credits.

The company is following a well-used industry play book chipping away at net metering programs state by state. This has cast a shadow on the solar industry in Arizona and Nevada, at least temporarily. The fight is now in Utah as well. Just last week, Utah took action to decrease the value of solar power, but grandfathered all existing customers until 2026.

Idaho’s net metering program is not expected to change right away. Just in the last 18 months, the Alliance’s Solarize the Valley campaign has helped 75 more families install rooftop solar panels and many more will be hooked up by the end of the year. Last year, the Solarize the Valley program added $1 million to our local economy.

We are pleased to be intervening before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in partnership with the Northwest Energy Coalition. The coalition brings more valuable technical expertise to our fight as we work alongside other groups such as the Idaho Conservation League, the Idaho Clean Energy Association, the Sierra Club and Vote Solar.

The Alliance is standing up for your right to generate green energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. To us, it is a freedom thing.

In the next decade, thousands more Idahoans will choose to install solar panels or wind generators of their own free will. These people should not have to pay extra fees and discriminatory rates just because they generate some of their own power. This should be facilitated by our energy utilities – not penalized.

So why do utility companies oppose solar? Because regulators haven’t given them a way to make money off of it. If rate structures were changed to reward Idaho Power for the number of happy customers served it would improve the company’s bottom line

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission needs to hear from you regarding the future of net metering. No date has been set yet for public hearings. In the meantime, you can be heard online at http://www.puc.idaho.gov/forms/casecomment.aspx

Points to make:

  • Make your comments in reference to case IPC-E_17-13.
  • Idaho Power deserves a fair rate for providing grid services to all customers, solar customers should not be singled out.
  • The 2016 Solarize the Valley campaign generated over $1 million dollars and supports local green jobs.
  • We need a full study of the costs and benefits here in Idaho, before changing our effective net metering program.

For more information refer to IPC-E-17-13 – IDAHO POWER–NEW SCHEDULES FOR CUSTOMERS WITH ON-SITE GENERATION

The Snake River Alliance members, board, and staff are deeply saddened by the passing of former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus. He was a friend, a leader, an ally and inspiration.

I first met Governor Andrus in 1984 shortly after the death of Senator Frank Church. Our conversation was clouded by grief for his dear friend. He said Church’s death had left him – and all of us – with a heavier responsibility to protect Idaho’s wilderness and wild places.

He carried that weight proudly and with great good humor. Even when he didn’t win, he was clear about his goals and respectful of his adversaries. Today, we feel that weight shift from his broad shoulders to ours.

In the 1980s and 1990s Governor Andrus was a powerful spokesperson for Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead. He often made time to talk with younger conservation leaders about the plight of our fish and how to restore them. Always humble, he was quick to point out that just having the facts on your side wasn’t enough – and that he was only one governor from a small state with little political power.

Beatrice Brailsford, the Alliance’s nuclear program director, said, “In the 1970s, Governor Andrus’ efforts going against the federal government to stop nuclear waste from coming to Idaho were unprecedented across the West. He demanded an end to waste coming from Rocky Flats, Colorado, and set a public precedent that people living around nuclear weapons sites could fight back.”

In one of my last meetings with Governor Andrus he was proud of his conservation legacy because he had “put a lot of hay in the barn.” But his one regret was that as Governor he hadn’t been able to fully protect the Snake River aquifer from the threat of nuclear waste. It saddened him to know that all of the liquid waste in Idaho would not be “secured and above ground” in his lifetime.

History won’t forget him. We must celebrate his conservation successes such as the Alaska Lands Act, the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness, and the legal victories that led to Idaho’s 1995 Nuclear Waste Settlement Agreement.

It is the things he didn’t accomplish in his lifetime that I can’t forget. Our wild places and wild rivers still need help. The Department of Energy still needs to know that Idaho will not be a dumping ground for nuclear materials.

Going forward, the Snake River Alliance will do our part. The goal of our “Don’t Waste Idaho” campaign is to keep Idaho safe from nuclear waste. Working together, we must assure our current political leaders make the best choices to protect Idaho.

The Alliance is so much stronger because of Governor Andrus’ life and legacy and for that we are very grateful.

Happy Trails, Cece!

On August 11, 2017, the Los Angeles Times revealed that, without significant reform, the Department of Energy (DOE) will miss its 2035 deadline for getting all its spent fuel out of Idaho. The LA Times article is based on a report by Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a longtime Alliance ally. DOE documents he got through the Freedom of Information Act show DOE is knowingly making the situation even worse while leaving the public and the State of Idaho in the dark.

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has 26 metric tons of sodium-bonded spent nuclear fuel left over from operating the Experimental Breeder Reactor II. It contains metallic sodium, which reacts violently with both air and water. DOE argues that the fuel can’t be put in a geologic repository unless the sodium is removed.

INL chose to remove the sodium through pyroprocessing, a technology that poses a proliferation threat because it can separate nuclear bomb ingredients out of spent fuel. Despite opposition from the Alliance, UCS, and other environmental and peace groups, INL started pyroprocessing in 2000.

As a waste management effort, it has been a disaster right from the start.

Early estimates pegged 2013 as the completion date for treating the sodium-bonded spent fuel. But INL admitted in an internal document that it wouldn’t even hit 2035, the deadline in the Nuclear Waste Settlement Agreement. INL’s admission included a comment that “according to [name redacted] EBR-II elements are not subject to the SA [Settlement Agreement].”

That is simply not true.

The FOIAed documents reveal even more damning information. Pyroprocessing spent fuel creates high-level waste, and 2035 is also the deadline for all high-level waste to be ready to leave Idaho. That’s one of the reasons everyone has been so worried about the ongoing problems treating the liquid waste in INL’s buried tanks.

Some of pyroprocessing’s high-level waste is in a ceramic form. But the equipment to make the ceramic has been moved to make room for pyroprocessing research for South Korea. The proposed research would use spent fuel from a nuclear power plant in Byron, Illinois.

If the State of Idaho waives its ban on commercial spent fuel and allows in the Byron fuel, it will also impede efforts to get high-level waste ready to leave Idaho.

The State must protect the best interests of Idahoans and demand that DOE act in good faith and meet its commitments to us. We must have a workable path forward for INL’s sodium-bonded fuel and successful treatment of high-level waste.

Aug 8 2017

Don’t Waste Idaho

The new baseball caps at the Snake River Alliance say “Nuclear Waste is Not Your Friend.” But here it comes again — knocking at your door like a bad date from high school.

The Department of Energy is asking Idaho to accept high-level waste from the Byron nuclear plant in Illinois. This is to support research for South Korea. After the research, the waste will stay in Idaho.

We’ve heard this all before and we would be fools to fall for it. Idaho should not allow more nuclear waste. The government has not met its deadlines for removing what is already here.

Governor Otter and many legislators want the Byron waste and have plans to roll back Idaho’s 1995 Nuclear Waste Agreement to accept even more.

Many Snake River Alliance members know what happened when Idaho was a dumping ground for nuclear waste. For decades waste was directly injected into our aquifer and barrels of plutonium-laden waste were dumped into unlined pits.

We are fighting back with a media and public education campaign. Please help the Alliance launch by making a donation today to our new Don’t Waste Idaho campaign. We can’t do it without you!

It is important that we act today. The Byron shipment will open the door to more nuclear waste from many different places. There is already discussion of bringing thousands of barrels of nuclear waste to Idaho from Hanford, Washington.

Instead of accepting more waste, Idaho needs to enforce the 1995 Agreement that set up deadlines for cleanup at the Idaho National Laboratory. Those deadlines aren’t being met, and 900,000 gallons of highly radioactive liquid still sits in aging underground tanks at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Together we can stop the Byron shipment and keep our state safe. Don’t let Idaho open the door to more nuclear waste.

Thank you for helping the Don’t Waste Idaho campaign! When you send a one-time gift of $150 (or ongoing pledge of $10 a month) we will send you a “Nuclear Waste is Not Your Friend” hat in the color of your choosing. Just say “No hat, please” if that’s not your style.

August 2017 marks the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is a good time to take stock of where we are in the nuclear age.

The surprisingly good news is that on July 7, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was overwhelmingly adopted at the UN. None of the nuclear-armed states – U.S., Russia, China, U.K., France, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea – are expected to sign the treaty. Nevertheless, it establishes a new global norm that will be a touchstone for those of us working for a nuclear-free world.

The worst news shows how far we have to go. Three days before the Nuclear Ban Treaty vote, North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is set at 2 ½ minutes before midnight. To mark this year’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries, the Bulletin prepared a collection of reading to help with the work ahead.