Idaho Energy Update
Feb. 15, 2006
The House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee killed a resolution last week that would have congratulated state and local entities for taking steps to save energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Some critics of the proposal echoed the same concerns voiced by opponents of a measure pending in the Senate – that they don’t believe the planet’s climate is changing, or if it is, they don’t believe human activities are playing a role. On the upside, a measure was introduced in the House to help encourage development of geothermal power projects in Idaho by replacing operating property taxes with a production tax on energy generated by the geothermal projects. Legislators approved a similar measure for wind projects last year.
Meanwhile, developers of a proposed nuclear power plant in Owyhee County are expected to meet with county officials this week to discuss their failure to pay the county the $50,000 both parties agreed to. We’ll know early in the week whether the nuclear plant developers will finally meet their obligations to the county.
Finally, a reminder that the NW Energy Coalition’s Idaho Caucus meeting is coming up this Thursday. Details and a tentative agenda are below.
See below for more information on these and other developments.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them my way!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
(208) 344-9161 office
(208) 841-6982 cell
I: In the Legislature: House Panel Kills Energy Resolution, Geothermal Tax Break Bill Introduced
The House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee this week killed a resolution by Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, that would have congratulated Idaho’s schools and universities, businesses, governments, and other entities for taking measures to save energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite assurances from resolution supporters that there “is nothing nefarious” about Rep. Chew’s resolution, several majority members on the committee attacked the resolution as critical of irrigators, an affront to possible coal-fired power plants, and an acknowledgment that climate change is occurring. In fact, the resolution did nothing of the sort. It was written specifically to pay tribute to the many efforts being taken by Idahoans to save energy and find cleaner energy resources in the future. Still Tuesday’s awkward discussion in the House EE&T Committee shows the uphill climb that clean-energy advocates face in the Idaho Legislature, particularly when it comes to whether Earth’s climate is in fact changing.
On the upside, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee agreed to introduce H529,
a measure brought by Boise-based U.S. Geothermal that would give geothermal developers similar favorable tax treatments the Legislature approved for the wind industry last session. If approved, the bill would replace the current property taxes geothermal companies must pay on their operating property with a 3 percent production tax. While the immediate impact for Cassia County (where U.S. Geothermal’s Raft River power plant resides) would mean a reduction in overall tax collections, the county supports the company’s request because it may spur future development at the Raft River site that otherwise might not have been economically feasible.
A hearing on the bill is expected early in the coming week.
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 “Legislation” link and then “Legislative Topic Index of Bills” 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 currently looks like this:
Energy Efficient State Buildings Act . . . . . . . . . . . H0422
Energy facility siting, construction moratorium. . . . . .S1314
Energy facility, commercial purpose, endowment lands . . . H0500
Geothermal energy electrical production, tax . . . . . . . H0529
Major energy facilities, siting certificate. . . . . . . .S1293
Nuclear energy use, public advisory vote . . . . . . . . .S1289
Renewable energy resources, federal lands, funds . . . . . H0432
Resources Office, collaborative report, energy options . SCR128
School building design, energy efficiency. . . . . . . . .S1412
Here’s a look at the status of pending bills:
Energy Facility Siting (S1293):
Creates a state facility siting authority to review and approve or disapprove sites for large merchant generation facilities.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, David Langhorst, Elliot Werk, Mike Burkett, Kate Kelly, Diane Bilyeu, Dick Sagness.
Non-binding Vote on Nuclear Power Plants (S1289)
Amends Idaho Code Section 39-3027 (which prevents passage of state laws prohibiting nuclear power plants for generation without voter approval) by requiring a positive vote by Idahoans for nuclear power plants proposed in Idaho. The vote is advisory and not binding.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Clint Stennett
Power Plant Moratorium (S1314)
Places a two-year two years to the soon-to-expire moratorium on permitting or construction of merchant thermal power plant – through April 2010.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, Kate Kelly, Elliot Werk, David Langhorst, Mike Burkett.
Green State Buildings (H422)
Requires new state-financed buildings and major renovations of existing buildings to meet or exceed national energy efficiency codes.
Status: Passed the House 55-11-4 on Feb. 7. Awaiting hearing in Senate State Affairs.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Kate Kelly
Office of Energy Resources Funding (H432)
Allocates most of the state’s share ($2.3 million) of recent BLM geothermal lease sales to the new Office of Energy Resources.
Status: Approved by House Resources Committee and awaiting final House approval.
Sponsor: Office of Energy Resources Administrator Paul Kjellander
Energy Efficient Idaho Schools (S1412)
Requires school districts to integrate certain design and commissioning procedures for new school buildings to ensure they are more energy efficient.
Status: Introduced by the Senate State Affairs Committee; awaiting hearing in committee.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Elliot Werk (prime sponsor), Curt MacKenzie, Stan Bastian; Reps. George Eskridge, Sue Chew, Eric Anderson
Geothermal Power Plant Taxes (H529)
Replaces property tax for operating equipment at geothermal power plants with a 3 percent production tax, similar to that enacted last year for wind developers.
Status: Introduced in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee; Hearing scheduled Feb. 18 at 9 a.m. in Room 240.
Sponsor(s): U.S. Geothermal, Inc.
Energy Resource Office – Reporting on Energy Options (SCR128)
A resolution requesting that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the newly created Office of Energy Resources report on opportunities and steps the Legislature can take to meet the goals of the state Energy Plan, particularly regarding how Idaho can address future state, regional or federal greenhouse gas emissions targets, achieve conservation goals, and develop renewable energy resources in Idaho. The report will be due July 1, 2008.
Status: Introduced in Senate Resources Committee; awaiting hearing in committee.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Kate Kelly, Clint Stennett, David Langhorst, and Gary Schroeder; Reps. Wendy Jaquet, Sharon Block and Sue Chew
Energy Facilities on Endowment Lands (H500)
Expands the definition of “commercial purposes” for leases on state endowment lands to include renewable resources, including fuel cells, low-impact hydro, wind, geothermal, biomass, cogeneration, sun or landfill gas as the primary power source of power for generating facilities of 25KW or less.
Status: Introduced in House; awaiting hearing in House Resources and Conservation Committee.
Sponsor(s): Reps. Eric Anderson, Bob Nonini, Lawrence Denney, Mike Moyhle, Scott Bedke, Ken Roberts, George Eskridge, Frank Henderson and Cliff Bayer
II: Owyhee Nuke Developer to Discuss Overdue Payments With County Officials
The would-be developer of a nuclear power plant in Owyhee County is scheduled to meet with county officials on Monday to discuss his company’s failure to pay a long-overdue $50,000 payment to process his application.
According to The Idaho Statesman, Alternate Energy Holdings Co. CEO Don Gillispie will meet with county officials to settle a dispute regarding his company’s failure to pay the fees, as agreed to in prior meetings with county officials. The Snake River Alliance raised the issue last week of AEHI’s nonpayment of the $50,000 fee, which was negotiated between company and county representatives in December. Repeated efforts by the county to get AEHI to pay up have been meet with no response from AEHI, which the Alliance considers to be in default of its obligations to Owyhee County. This most recent dispute with the power plant developer comes after AEHI was cited by the county for illegal construction activities on its property.
You can read more about AEHI’s mounting legal and financial problems with Owhyee County on the Snake River Alliance’s website at www.snakeriveralliance.org. Also, here’s a copy of the Feb. 11 article in The Statesman:
February 12, 2008
Owyhee may suspend planning for nuclear plant
The county says it is owed a $50,000 processing fee by the company that wants to build the energy facility near Bruneau.
Owyhee County officials say they are prepared to suspend the permitting process for the proposed nuclear plant near Bruneau because company officials have failed to deliver a $50,000 fee to process the application.
Mary Huff, the county’s planning and zoning administrator, said Eagle-based Alternate Energy Holdings has failed to respond to three requests for payment. She said the county commissioners sent a final letter to the company Monday, saying if payment wasn’t received within 10 days the application for a conditional use permit would be suspended.
“We’re not going to continue to hold this and beg for fees,” Huff said. “The company needs to decide if they want to go forward with this project.”
Huff said in mid-December that CEO Don Gillispie agreed to pay $50,000 to help offset the costs of the county’s review of the company’s conditional use permit application. The company needs the permit before it can go any farther with the project.
In an e-mail Monday to the Idaho Statesman, Gillispie disputed the county’s story, saying the company was awaiting an invoice for the amount and was expecting an escrow account to be set up to give the company some control of the money. He claimed that “someone not familiar with the details” was providing incorrect information to the Statesman.
Gillispie said there had been no correspondence other than e-mails. He didn’t say why he didn’t respond.
Huff said in addition to two e-mails, the county sent a letter to the company Feb. 1. She said Gillispie was aware that the county doesn’t send invoices for fees, and the county didn’t intend to set up an escrow account that would give Gillispie access to the money.
For a month, she said, the company hasn’t responded to the county. But Huff said the company did send her an e-mail Monday afternoon asking for a meeting on Tuesday to resolve the issue.
Huff said the county staff has put in considerable time already processing the application, which it received in July. If the company fails to pay the fee, the extra cost will be have to be covered by county taxpayers.
“That’s our biggest concern,” Huff said.
The missing payment was made public by the Snake River Alliance, which filed a public records request with the county.
“Until AEHI starts to comply with the law, the Alliance believes Owyhee County should halt any and all work relating to this power plant permit or any other work related to the power plant proposal and return the application to AEHI as county ordinance requires,” Andrea Shipley, executive director of the Snake River Alliance, said in a statement.
Huff said normal conditional use permits don’t require a payment from applicants, but on major industrial permits the county negotiates a fee because the permit reviews require extra resources.
Huff said the county has to hold more public hearings, hire consultants to review the application, and provide legal notifications to surrounding landowners. She said the county has never before received so large an application.
Alternate Energy Holdings announced more than a year ago that it wanted to build a $4.5 billion, 1,600 megawatt nuclear power plant near Bruneau and C.J. Strike Reservoir.
The company continues to say that it plans to file a license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late 2008. It expects that process to cost $80 million.
In December, the company said it landed a letter of commitment from a Salt Lake City-based investment firm to provide $150 million to help cover the costs of the licensing process. Silverleaf Capital said at the time it had 60 days to complete a review of Alternate Energy’s financial condition before providing the money.
Alternate Energy Holdings hasn’t yet said if the company received the money. Shane Baldwin, a managing director at Silverleaf, didn’t return a call for comment Monday.
The company also said it has a commitment from Cobblestone Financial Group in New York, a company that focuses on commercial real estate, to offer up to $3.5 billion toward construction of the plant.
Late last month, Alternate Energy also announced that it had entered into what it characterized as a “memorandum of understanding” with Unistar Nuclear Energy to enter into discussions that could result in Unistar acquiring a “significant ownership interest” in the proposed plant. Unistar is a joint venture of Maryland-based Constellation Energy, and EDF Group a European-based energy company.
Alternate Energy trades on an over-the-counter market called the Pink Sheets under the symbol AEHI.PK. That market is for companies that do not meet the financial requirements to trade on a larger exchange.
On Monday, the stock closed unchanged at 24 cents a share. Over the last year it has traded between 10 cents and $1.20 a share.
Ken Dey: 672-6757
On the Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meeting on Feb. 26. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us
►The Northwest Energy Coalition’s IDAHO CAUCUS will be meeting in Boise at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 at Thomas Hammer’s Bored Room at 8th and Bannock. You’re invited! Our tentative agenda follows, but if you have any questions or items to place on the agenda, please e-mail me at [email protected] or e-mail Jesse at NWEC.
Idaho Caucus Meeting
6 p.m -8 p.m.
Thomas Hammer’s Coffee Shop
8th and Bannock
Proposed agenda items:
1. Legislative update (bills, legislative discussion, priorities, likely outcomes)
2. Regulatory update (Pending IRPs; SO2 allowance sales; remote connect/disconnect rules, etc)
3. Mercury update
4. Bruneau power plant update and strategies
5. Carbon trading and related issues (NWEC)
6. Renewable projects updates (wind and geothermal)
7. Brief salmon litigation update
8. Coming events and general discussion
9. Spring board meeting update and briefing
10. Potential new Idaho members of the Coalition
Please email me any additional agenda items you want to add.
NW Energy Coalition
811 1st Avenue #305
Seattle, WA 98104
►The Senate Resources and Environment Committee will meet Feb. 22 in Room 204 in the Capitol Annex (across the street from the Statehouse) at 1:30 p.m. to hear a presentation on “Climate Change Impacting Hydro Generation” by John Fazio, senior power system analyst at the NW Power and Conservation Council.
►The Northwest Power and Conservation Council meets March 11-13 in Boise. We’ll post agenda items and website information for those items as they become available closer to the meeting date.