Another Session of Missed Opportunities as Legislature Skirts Energy Issues
April 2, 2008

Ken Miller, Snake River Alliance Clean Energy Program Director
(208) 344-9161

BOISE – The Idaho Legislature completed another session this week in which lawmakers ducked key energy and climate issues, and also failed to implement a single recommendation contained in the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, the Snake River Alliance said.

“The Legislature spent one year and $300,000 to write the state’s energy plan, and just finished another session without implementing the recommendations needing legislative action,” said Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley. “The one energy plan recommendation adopted in the 2008 session requires the state to build energy efficient buildings – and even that bill was drastically watered down. We warned when the energy plan was adopted more than a year ago there was a risk of the plan not being implemented, and that’s exactly what is happening.”

The 2007 energy plan contains 44 specific actions recommended to be taken by the Legislature, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, and other state agencies. Almost none have been adopted. In addition, the Legislature’s 2008 record in handling other energy-related bills was equally disappointing, Shipley said.

“The Legislature did pass bills to encourage development of geothermal energy by eliminating the tax on developer’s equipment in exchange for a tax on energy production, which should help that industry as it did the wind industry in 2007,” Shipley said. “And legislators did pass measures to encourage renewable energy development on state endowment lands. But Idaho continues to lag behind its neighbors in encouraging renewable energy development as well as promoting energy efficiency and conservation. And the Legislature continues to be silent on the real threat of climate change and energy-related carbon emissions.”

Among the bills and resolutions that were killed by lawmakers this session were measures that would create a legitimate state “siting” body to review large private power plants; to allow for a non-binding public vote on new nuclear power plants; to place a two-year moratorium on speculative merchant thermal power plants; to help Idaho schools build “green buildings” that save energy and are more healthy; and to study how Idaho can best implement the energy plan and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even a modest resolution commending the good work being taken by state and local agencies and other entities to address climate issues was killed in a House committee. Legislators did, however, pass two tax breaks for an already-subsidized French-controlled firm considering Idaho as a site for its uranium enrichment plant.

“States around Idaho are seriously addressing the energy and climate issues, and Idaho risks falling further behind every year it fails to act,” Shipley said. “Eventually, these decisions will be made. The question is whether Idaho chooses to make them or waits for inevitable federal mandates.”

The Snake River Alliance is a nonprofit organization working toward energy solutions for Idaho and dedicated to serving as Idaho’s nuclear watchdog.