Elmore Nuke Plant Developer Delays Rezoning Hearing
Jan. 9, 2009
Contact: Andrea Shipley
(208) 344-9161

The developer of a proposed nuclear power plant near Mountain Home asked the Elmore County Commission to delay a hearing on his failing rezoning request from Feb. 11 to sometime in April.

A consultant for Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., told County Commissioners that CEO Don Gillispie’s travel schedule prevents his attendance until this spring. AEHI suffered a serious setback in November when the Elmore County Planning & Zoning Commission voted 4-2 to recommend the County Commission deny its request to rezone more than 1,300 acres of prime Snake River farmland from agricultural to heavy industrial to accommodate the ill-conceived nuclear reactor. The County Commission can accept or reject the P&Z recommendation, but the Planning Commission left no doubt the nuclear plant rezoning request was a flagrant violation of Elmore County’s Comprehensive Plan.

“It’s increasingly clear this project is doomed and should have never been foisted on the people of Elmore County,” Snake River Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley said. “It’s also unfortunate that AEHI and Mr. Gillispie insist on dragging this saga out. Dozens of Elmore County residents, some right next to the proposed site, made it clear in their testimony to the Planning and Zoning Commission that this project would devastate their way of life and forever change Elmore County’s precious rural heritage. The P&Z agreed with them and there is no reason to believe the County Commission will reach a different conclusion.”

Shipley noted AEHI’s move to delay its rezoning hearing puts the hearing at the height of the planting season for the scores of Elmore County farmers who would otherwise be able to appear at the hearing to voice their opposition. In addition, the delay further delays AEHI’s alleged plans to purchase the property for the reactor site and to file the massive amount of permitting paperwork to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The next time AEHI does what it says it will do and does it will be the first time,” Shipley said. “This is a company that abandoned its self-described “perfect site” in Owyhee County, where it built towers without permits and had to be hounded to pay its promised fees for its application. It moved up the Snake River to Elmore County, and another perfect site, which violates the comprehensive plan. It has changed vendors for its reactor. Its timeline called for it to select a new reactor supplier last year, and that hasn’t happened. Three times it has claimed it found deep-pocked financiers for its project, and none have panned out. The people of Elmore County and their elected officials bent over backward to give AEHI the benefit of the doubt, but they know a bad deal when they see one. “

Shipley also said it is curious that AEHI sought the deferral of the hearing until April on grounds Gillispie would be out of town, as reported by a county official. “Why is it suddenly important for Mr. Gillispie to attend this meeting?” she said. “After all, he was a no-show at all four P&Z meetings. It’s odd that he is too busy to appear to defend his project.”

Last year, Gillispie also abruptly left a legislative energy committee meeting just moments before he was scheduled to appear before the committee, raising eyebrows among lawmakers who were prepared to ask him detailed questions about his project.

The Alliance opposes AEHI’s reactor scheme along with a coalition of farmers, medical professionals, water users, educators and families countywide who objected to wiping out hundreds of acres of farmland for a water-intensive energy complex that will generate massive amounts of radioactive waste. The project also threatens to upend Elmore County’s rural lifestyle by injecting thousands of construction workers into the county, requiring hundreds of new homes to house them, and severely taxing the county’s roads, schools, and public services.

The Snake River Alliance has a long history of advocating for the cleanup of the radioactive legacy from the Cold War at the Idaho National Laboratory and protecting the Snake River Aquifer that lies underneath the contamination. It also advocates clean energy alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuel power generation.