Idaho Energy Update
Feb. 4, 2011
A federal judge on Thursday lifted a freeze on the assets of troubled would-be nuclear reactor developer AEHI, but the decision does little to ease the massive legal problems facing the company in the wake of securities fraud charges filed in December. Meanwhile, a network of 11 wind farms from Hagerman to Cassia County has been fired up and the 122 turbines are sending enough electricity to Idaho Power to power about 40,000 homes. And the Office of Energy Resources has just issued its “Idaho Energy Primer,” a look at assorted energy issues in the state. In the Idaho Legislature, the House is expected to approve a resolution re-authorizing the interim joint Energy, Environment and Technology Committee to study energy issues after this year’s session. The top priority will be a review of Idaho’s 2007 Energy Plan, which after five years is up for a “complete study” to see which portions should be revised and what should be added or deleted from the plan.
For more on these and other developments, read on. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Judge Lifts Freeze on AEHI Assets; Keeps Nuke Developer on Short Leash
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge on Thursday lifted a freeze on the assets of troubled would-be nuclear reactor developer Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., but the judge’s decision made it clear the financially ailing company and its officers will be under close scrutiny when it comes to spending what’s left of investors’ money.
Judge Lodge froze AEHI’s assets in December shortly after the Eagle-based firm was charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with widespread securities fraud. AEHI asked the judge to lift the freeze on its remaining assets, and after lengthy negotiations between AEHI and SEC lawyers during Thursday’s hearing, the judge agreed to do so but only after imposing a number of restrictions, including one requiring the company to report to the SEC any expenditures of more than $2,500 and another ordering the company to obey federal securities laws. Furthermore, this week’s ruling does not impact the myriad fraud charges the SEC has leveled against AEHI, which for the past five years has roamed around southwest Idaho trying unsuccessfully to win approval of its reactor scheme.
Far from restoring the company to its former health, the ruling simply allows AEHI to restart what’s left of its business. AEHI has reported no probability of the massive cash infusions it would need to purchase property for a reactor or to seek a license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, let alone actually purchase a reactor.
In charging AEHI with fraud late last year, the SEC alleged in a news release that “AEHI and Gillispie have raised millions of dollars from individual investors in Idaho, elsewhere in the U.S., and Asia by making misleading statements about the viability of AEHI, which has no realistic possibility of building a multi-billion dollar nuclear reactor. AEHI has never had any revenue or product. Beginning in 2006, Defendants engaged in a scheme to pump up the price and volume of AEHI’s stock to artificially high levels through false press releases and promoters, and subsequently dump the stock through secret sales made by other entities and individuals connected to AEHI. The scheme was carried out by Defendant Donald L. Gillispie, founder and CEO of AEHI, and Defendant Jennifer Ransom, Senior Vice-President of Administration and Secretary of AEHI.”
In addition, several law firms claiming to represent AEHI investors have either filed or announced plans to file class-action lawsuits against the company to attempt to recover some of their clients’ investments.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that SEC attorney Mark Fickes said the government is continuing its investigation into Gillispie and Ransom, among other things. In court on Thursday, Fickes renewed SEC allegations that Gillispie and Ransom bilked investors of millions of dollars to underwrite lavish trips to exotic locations, purchases of jewelry and a Maserati sports car, and other spending unrelated to developing a nuclear reactor. Fickes also produced multiple e-mails from Gillispie to another individual directing him to purchase shares of AEHI stock in an attempt to manipulate stock prices as part of an illegal stock “pump and dump” trading scheme.
The complaint charges that, “Beginning in 2006, Defendants engaged in a scheme to pump up the price and volume of AEHI’s stock to artificially high levels through false press releases and promoters, and subsequently dump the stock through secret sales made by other entities and individuals connected to AEHI. The scheme was carried out by Defendant Donald L. Gillispie, founder and CEO of AEHI, and Defendant Jennifer Ransom, Senior Vice-President of Administration and Secretary of AEHI.”
Gillispie and Ransom are described in the complaint as “aiders and abettors” of the AEHI scam, and the complaint asks the court to ensure the pair are prevented from taking advantage of would-be investors. It also asks the court to “Enter an order preventing defendants and relief from destroying, mutilating, concealing, transferring, altering, or otherwise disposing of, in any manner, books, records, computer programs, computer files, computer printouts, correspondence, including e-mail, whether stored electronically or in hard-copy, memoranda, brochures, or any other documents of any kind” relating to the nuclear reactor scheme. The government charges the company never intended to build a reactor in Idaho.
The case has not been set for trial and will undergo extensive pre-trial procedures before trial. The defendants are due to respond to the charges in the complaint by Feb. 10.
To read a copy of the SEC’s complaint, go to: http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2010/2010-249.htm
II: State Issues ‘Idaho Energy Primer’
The Idaho Office of Energy Resources’ Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance (ISEA) has issued its “Idaho Energy Primer,” designed to be a guide to Idaho energy issues.
“This booklet provides information about energy resources, production, distribution and use in the state,” the 96-page report’s forward says. “The availability of reliable, affordable energy for our citizens and businesses while protecting the environment is critical to achieving sustainable economic growth and our quality of life.”
The report features an “Idaho Energy Snapshot” and includes chapters on Idaho energy use, energy sources, energy providers in Idaho, transmission, policy and pricing issues, various forms of energy generation, energy research in Idaho, and background on the ISEA.
The report can be found at OER’s website at http://www.energy.idaho.gov/
III: Multi-Farm Wind Project Energized and Sending Electricity to Idaho Power
A group of 11 wind farms in the vicinity of the Oregon Trail in southern Idaho have been energized and are now producing and delivering to Idaho Power 183 megawatts of electricity – enough to power about 40,000 homes on an average basis, developers said.
Construction of the wind projects that were approved by the Public Utilities Commission about five years ago began last July and finished ahead of schedule, thanks in part to the arrival of new partner General Electric Energy Financial Services. GE purchased a majority stake in the projects last year and partnered with Exergy Development, the Boise company that originally designed the projects, along with Atlantic Power Corp. and Reunion Power. The partnership is known as Idaho Wind Partners.
The $500 million complex is divided into two distinct areas, one in the Bell Rapids area above the Snake River near Hagerman and the other to the east near Burley in Cassia County. Combined, they cover about 10,000 acres. The projects consist of 122 GE turbines that can generate 1.5 megawatts each at full capacity.
“Through our investment in Idaho’s largest wind power portfolio, GE Energy Financial Services is putting millions of dollars to work to bring jobs and clean energy to Idaho and help the country meet growing demand for domestic, renewable sources of energy,” Kevin Walsh, managing director and head of Power and Renewable Energy for the company, said in a news release when the project began construction.
GE said the project employed about 300 workers during construction and will employ about 25 full-time workers to run and maintain the turbines. Idaho Power is purchasing the electricity under 20-year contracts with each wind farm. Developers said the wind farms can function as a unified system for more efficient operations or individually, depending on Idaho Power’s needs.
On The Agenda:
► The House Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee is scheduled to hear a series of presentations on energy efficiency and efficiency technologies when it meets at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10 in Room EW16 at the Statehouse.
►The Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance (ISEA) of the Idaho Office of Energy Resources holds its Board of Directors Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8, at Idaho Power Co. For more information, go to http://www.energy.idaho.gov/energyalliance/
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Feb. 7, 22 and 28. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us. The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.
► The Idaho Energy Collaborative holds its 3rd annual Legislative Lobby Day from 9 a.m. to noon on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. IEC members will be meeting with legislators throughout the day to brief them on energy-related issues, and will have displays on the 4th Floor Rotunda at the Statehouse. To learn more about the Collaborative, go to http://idahoenergycollaborative.weebly.com/
► Idaho Power’s Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Committee, which advises the state’s largest electric utility on how to meet its future energy needs, holds its next scheduled meeting on Feb. 17. The meeting is open to the public and will be held at Idaho Power. The precise time and place have not yet been announced. For information about Idaho Power’s IRPAC, go to http://www.idahopower.com/AboutUs/PlanningForFuture/irp/2011/default.cfm
►The Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s March meeting will be in Boise on March 8-9. The agenda will be announced before the meeting, as will the time and place. The Power Council is made up of eight members appointed by the governors of the four Pacific Northwest states and is the region’s leading authority on planning for the Northwest’s electricity needs, as well as the protection of fish and other wildlife. For information about the Council, go to http://www.nwcouncil.org/
IN THE LEGISLATURE: “Complete Study” of 2007 Idaho Energy Plan Expected
The Legislature is expected to quickly approve HCR4, a House-Senate resolution that will renew for the 15th year the Interim Energy, Environment and Technology Committee. The committee, which will be appointed later and will meet after the 2011 session, will take up the first major review of the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan.
Each week, we’ll post thumbnail summaries on where the bills stand. Text of bills can be found by going to the Legislature’s main site at www.legislature.idaho.gov and clicking the “Bill Center” link and then “Legislation By Subject” and scrolling to the categories in which you’re interested in. Such as “Energy,” “Environment” or “Utilities.” You then click the link to the bill for more information. The Energy section will look something like this:
Energy/environment/technology, interim study comm HCR004
Renewable energy projects, expedite permits S1035
Here’s a look at the status of pending bills:
Grow Green Idaho Jobs Act (S1035):
Calls on state and local government jurisdictions to “expedite” permit applications for renewable energy projects and to hold public meeting on the applications. Says the “permitting and approval of such projects shall be a priority of each state agency or political subdivision.” Requires local governments and the state to expedite permits for renewable energy projects and to provide for public meetings on such applications in an accelerated fashion.
Status: Awaiting hearing in Senate State Affairs.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Edgar Malapeai, Les Bock, Michelle Stennett, Elliot Werk, and Dianne Bilyeu. (332-1351).
Interim Energy Committee Renewal (HCR4):
Joint House-Senate resolution to renew the interim Energy, Environment and Technology Committee, which will convene after the 2011 session to study energy and related matters. This interim committee has been authorized to meet for the past 14 years, and this year it will be tasked with the Legislature’s first five-year review of the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan. Much of the 2007 plan has been implemented only in part or not at all, so the committee will review which of the dozens of plan recommendations should be updated or dropped from the plan – as well as whether new recommendations should be added.
Status: House approval expected early next week.
Sponsor(s): Interim Committee Co-Chairs Rep. George Eskridge and Sen. Curt McKenzie.