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Protesters tell Idaho Power to ‘lose the coal’

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By BILL ROBERTS — broberts@idahostatesman.com

Idacorp is evaluating coal-fired plants, but the Snake River Alliance says that’s not enough.

Idacorp, the parent company of Idaho Power Co., caught heat inside and outside its annual meeting Thursday for relying on coal for nearly half of its power generation.

Inside the company’s headquarters at 1221 W. Idaho St., shareholder Tim Andreae of Boise asked President and CEO J. LaMont Keen when the company would move beyond the coal-fired plants. Keen told shareholders that coal is the most reliable source of electrical generation. “We can’t just decide to not take coal,” he said. He told the Idaho Statesman that no schedule exists to stop the use of coal.

Outside, about 30 members of the Snake River Alliance called on Idaho Power to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by backing away from the coal plants, which many blame for pumping harmful chemicals into the air.

Most of Idaho Power’s electricity is generated at hydroelectric plants on the Snake River and its tributaries. But the company also gets power from three coal plants in Nevada, Wyoming and Oregon in which it shares ownership.

The company owns 10 percent of the plant in Boardman, Ore., that is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2020. It owns a third of the Jim Bridger plant near Rock Springs, Wyo., and half of the North Valmy Generating Station near Battle Mountain, Nev.

Company officials will conduct an economic analysis of the operations of the Wyoming and Nevada plants this year to see if they will remain viable in the face of increased environmental regulations for health and haze, said Mark Stokes, power supply planning manager.

That didn’t satisfy the environmental group.

“This issue isn’t one that should hinge on economics,” said Lisa Young, Alliance clean energy organizer. “There are other reasons to be shutting down these coal plants. (Besides), the environmental retrofits are going to cost too much.”

Idacorp officials told shareholders the company has reduced greenhouse gases in its emissions by 30 percent — about twice the percentage goal it set in 2009 to reach in 2013.

That didn’t satisfy the environmentalists either. The alliance applauded the reductions, but said they resulted from improved water years — which have helped the company boost its hydroelectric production and rely less on the coal plants.

Company officials said the reductions were caused by better water years and by improved energy efficiency at the hydro plants.

The company also said it bought 16,000 megawatt hours of sustainable power in 2011, enough to light 1,300 homes for a year. The company has nearly 500,000 customers in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon.

The Snake River Alliance has touted its cooperative relationship with Idacorp.

“We aren’t asking the company to unplug its (coal) plants tomorrow,” Young said. “We are asking to phase out coal.”

But at the rally, during a mock “careholders” meeting, a character calling himself “Mr. Idaho Power CEO” acknowledged that he manipulated the truth about some of Idaho Power’s activities “in order to make people believe we are looking out for them.” He dismissed the concerns of a mock “careholder” by saying, “Young lady, you are much too young to understand such complex matters.”

In other business at the meeting, Idacorp executives said they are looking forward to opening their Langley Gulch gas-fired plant near Caldwell this summer .

Bill Roberts: 377-6408

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/05/18/2121754/protesters-tell-idaho-power-to.html#storylink=cpy

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