On behalf of the Snake River Alliance staff, we want to extend our deepest gratitude to our Board and to all of you who submitted written comments, who testified at last night’s PUC hearing, or who came to the hearing to show support for clean energy in IPC-E-13-16, the Idaho Power CPCN case and its “binding ratemaking treatment” request for its massive coal plant proposal. We were hoping for a good turnout last night, but nobody could have expected a standing-room-only, overflow crowd showing unanimous opposition to Idaho Power’s application to spend $130 million in customer dollars on the first of what would be several upgrades to its Jim Bridger coal plants in Wyoming in the coming years. We also want to thank our partners in helping to reach out to Idaho Power customers: The Sierra Club and Idaho Conservation League.
When Sierra Club’s Zack Waterman asked the Commission if he could get a show of hands of those who oppose Idaho Power’s coal plant investments, almost every arm shot up, prompting Commissioner Marsha Smith, who chaired last night’s hearing, to note with a smile: “Let the record reflect that nearly everyone in the room raised their hands.”
As with last summer’s solar “net metering” case in which a similar showing at a PUC hearing helped convince the Commission to reject Idaho Power’s application, we believe the Commission can’t help but to have been moved by the excellent, heart-felt testimony. Last night’s 29 individual testimonies to the Commissioners was about the same at the 26 in the net metering case, and as of this morning, 211 written comments in this case had been submitted, although the deadline was noon today, so more are certain to be posted on the PUC’s website. The meeting was cordial rather than acrimonious and the testimony was thoughtful, heart-felt, and very effective. It lasted two and a half hours, and the word “bogus” was used sparingly – just three times!
Last night’s testimony was unanimous in challenging Idaho Power, but the beauty of it was that those testifying covered all the issues that were raised in this case. Here’s a snapshot of the topics covered, and a sampling of what people had to say about them:
Burning Coal for Electricity
– Brandie Redinger: As a customer, the idea of investing this much money in a dying technology … is kind of stunning.
– Norman Anderson: Being the cleanest of the dirty polluters is not much to brag about. Pursue as soon as you can other alternatives.
– Edwina Allen: Forty percent of our electricity comes from dirty out-of-state coal plants. Require they do a long-term analysis of the cost of burning coal.
– Lou Landry: I’m deeply disturbed at upper management on where they’re taking the company and where they’re taking the ratepayers.
– Steve Jakubowics: I’m here because I can’t believe Idaho Power is getting ready to spend $130 million on a technology that we need to get away from. It’s just an ancient technology that we need to get away from.
– Alan Hausrath: Coal is a 19th Century technology. I worry that the company may not be viable for the next 20 years if management goes ahead with this plan.
– Joanie Fauci: Since coal is used to provide power to me, I am part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution.
– Robert Sandberg: Coal plants are much too costly. There are hidden costs that aren’t addressed by the companies. A carbon tax is coming. It will make coal much more expensive than it is, and rightly so. The old model of centralized production of power is no longer viable.
– Tim Andreae: A company as hulking and a behemoth such as Idaho Power is going to cling desperately to what it knows.
– Dave Ransom (on Sunday’s Statesman Idaho Power op-ed trying to defend its use of coal): It says that “keeping coal online is the best option for our customers right now.” I would add, “Unless our customers are against the use of coal.”
Climate Change and Health Impacts of Burning Coal
– Shantar Sanderberg: I feel this plan by Idaho Power is very irresponsible. Spewing more carbon into the air will make matters worse.
– James Blakely, Sierra Club, holding up a lump of coal: This is a lump of coal. It’s why we’re here. This is not just an economic issue, it’s a moral issue.
– Richard Rusnak: I’m baffled by this intransigent policy. I ask the Commission to consider the systemic societal costs.
Giving Idaho Power Pre-Approval to Bill Customers the $130 million
– Wendy Wilson: Bridger is a risky coal plant (due partly to frequent ash pond leaks and massive water consumption out of the Colorado River basin). If we allow Idaho Power to rate base this, we’ll only be taking away the incentives for them to solve this problem.
– David Monsees: The problem is, Idaho Power executives have no problem with presenting the commission with an emergency. Idaho Power isn’t the only one to blame. We have been negligent in not raising our voices. I agree with Lou Landry: It’s senior management that is our problem here.
– Tim Andreae: Idaho Power’s got to know that investing $130 million in a coal plant is not going to look good. It’s pretty obvious that this is a first small bite.
Piling the Risk of the Coal Spending on Ratepayers Rather than Shareholders
– Zack Waterman, Sierra Club: We do not believe financial risks to ratepayers have been fully accounted for.
– Dick Miller: It’s a bad business strategy and unfair to ratepayers like myself. Idaho Power does not bear any of the risk.
– Richard Rusnak: Idaho Power’s message seems to be obliging only to its shareholders. Idaho Power … should be providing a safe product to Idahoans.
– Mark Schlegel: We must consider much more than just the profit margin.
– Lou Landry: If Idaho Power’s doing so well, self-fund there and don’t’ ask ratepayers to do it. It (Idaho Power’s coal analysis) is bogus. It is so flawed.
– Alan Hausrath: If Idaho Power goes ahead, the shareholders should bear the risk.
– Mary McGown, League of Women Voters: We request you deny the request to spend the $130 million. Deny the application … and the company will have to start investing in a cleaner energy future.
– Pam Conley: I don’t think ratepayers should pay for any more investments in coal plants.
The Likelihood that More Environmental Rules Will Endanger Coal’s Future
– Mike Heckler: They do face future CO2 requirements that could make the (retrofits) useless.
– Sage Premoe: It seems you have put yourself in the predicament of saying, ‘We are at a crisis point if we don’t do this; we want to have electricity.’”
– Steven White: It would cheap if you can perfectly predict the future, but you cannot.
– Pam Conley: As a ratepayer, mother, and birder, I am concerned about the continued use of coal as a source for energy. There a significant chance that EPA will put out regulations in the next couple of years that will force Idaho Power to deal with this problem.
Choosing Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Over More Coal Spending
– Zack Waterman: (Using conservation and renewables) is not pie in the sky; it’s happening all over the country and it’s happening today.
– Ed Wardell: Idaho Power has had ample time to move seriously to conservation, but they haven’t. Putting good money after bad is not a “glide path” away from coal. I’m really distressed that Idaho Power is going in the wrong direction. It’s the upper echelon (at Idaho Power) that is holding us back.
– Michael Richardson: I’m willing to bet that many people in this room are willing to pay more (for electricity) knowing the sources of their energy are cleaner. Bridger goes through 1,100 tons of coal an hour.
Idaho Power’s Pro-Coal November “Connections” Brochure Inserted Into Customer Bills
– Steve Jakubowics: They’re sitting there telling people we need to get away from solar. You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s all kinds of things they can invest in. It’s high time ratepayers get vocal and say, “Hell no, we don’t want it.”
– John Weber: I didn’t think I would testify, but in my bill on Friday I got this “Connections” thing – “Straight Talk About Coal.” The cost of a solar peaking plant is cheaper than Langley Gulch (the new gas plant). And, after Commissioner Smith noted that the Commission “cannot control what Idaho Power puts in its “bill stuffer” and that the company pays for the literature, John grinned and asked, Is there a way the Commission would allow ratepayers to put their own flier in with the bill? (Commissioner Smith said there was not).
We have heard that a decision from the Commission could be reached soon, maybe even by the end of this week. We will keep you updated as events unfold. To read the Alliance’s full testimony in the Technical Proceeding related to this case, click here.
Additional Energy cases at the PUC that the Alliance is tracking and commenting on:
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