Idaho Energy Update
March 21, 2008

The Idaho Legislature is nearing adjournment – probably in the coming week – and for those supporting clean energy issues in Idaho the session looms as a disappointment. A handful of moderately helpful bills have been signed by the governor in the past week or will soon be on the governor’s desk for expected approval. But the 2008 Legislature will be remembered for not acting on the dozens of recommendations included in the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan. We’ll be providing a thorough update in the coming weeks to recap what has been accomplished on clean energy policies, and more important what remains. Meanwhile, citizens still have a chance to comment to the Owyhee County Planning and Zoning Commission on its expected approval soon of two towers that were illegally built to support a possible nuclear power plant at C.J. Strike Reservoir; and Idaho Power is looking to buy up to 600MW of firm power in 2012 and is also asking the Idaho PUC to approve recovery of costs for its newest gas plant.

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!


Ken Miller
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
(208) 344-9161 office
(208) 841-6982 cell
[email protected]

I: In the Legislature: Governor Signs Geothermal Tax Bill; Ponders Areva, “Green Building” Measures

The Senate this week approved two bills – now on the governor’s desk – that cater to French-controlled Areva, which is pitching Idaho against other states in hopes of finding the sweetest deal to build its uranium enrichment plant. House bills 561 and 562, if they become law with the governor’s signature, are designed to make Idaho more attractive to Idaho as it vies with Washington, New Mexico and other states for bragging rights to host the already-subsidized nuclear company’s toxic operations.

If approved by the governor, H562 will cap Areva’s property taxes at the first $400 million the company invests in its uranium enrichment centrifuge project so long as it spends at least $1 billion on the project. H561 would give Areva a sales tax exemption for production equipment. Several senators, including influential Republicans, voted against the measures as bad tax policy. They warned the property tax cap will only lead companies such as Micron to come in and demand similar treatment. They also warned the measures are designed to clear Areva’s path to Idaho.

Legislators seemed so eager to throw taxpayer money at the French nuclear firm that they’re willing to overlook the obvious environmental and health impacts from what Areva might bring with it. The Snake River Alliance has a bulletin on its site at It’s also worth noting that the same tax giveaways would likely be claimed by the developers of the proposed Idaho Energy Complex nuclear power plant.

Meanwhile, Gov. Otter signed H432, which will allocate Idaho’s share of revenues from federal leases to renewable energy firms mostly to the new Office of Energy Resources. It’s not a bad idea, so long as the money is used to actually run energy programs and not to administrative overhead. We mention that because legislators in a recent Senate committee hearing were told the money may be used in part to hire a fiscal officer for the OER as well as to offset legal expenses relating to nuclear programs. If this windfall does not tie directly to improved program work by the state’s energy office, it’s hard to say it’s money well spent. Long-time readers of the ID Energy Update know the state has chronically underfunded its energy programs, devoting almost no general funds to the energy division.

And HCR054, which is designed to promote renewable energy development on state endowment lands, is expected on the Senate floor next week. Like H500, which was signed by the governor March 14, this bill would promote the state lands as possible sites for renewables. Meanwhile, H529, which would replace property taxes on operating equipment with a 3 percent production tax on energy produced by geothermal plants, was signed by the governor March 20. It’s similar to the tax reform passed last year for wind projects and should encourage more geothermal development in Idaho.

Here’s a look at where the bills stand. Text of bills can be found by going to the Legislature’s main site at 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 landsH0500 – Ch.115
Energy Resources Office, approp. . . . . . . . . . . . . .S1480
Energy savings performance, facilities, contractors. . . . H0556
Energy-producing materials, sales tax exemption. . . . . . H0561
Geothermal energy electrical production, tax . . . . . . . H0529
Major energy facilities, siting certificate. . . . . . . .S1293
Nuclear energy use, public advisory vote . . . . . . . . .S1289
Renewable energy development on endowment lands. . . . . .HCR054
Renewable energy resources, federal lands, funds .H0432 – Ch.206
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. Dead this session.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, David Langhorst, Elliot Werk, Mike Burkett, Kate Kelly, Diane Bilyeu, Dick Sagness.
Contact: 322-1351

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. Dead this session.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Clint Stennett
Contact: 322-1351

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. Dead this session.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, Kate Kelly, Elliot Werk, David Langhorst, Mike Burkett.
Contact: 332-1351

Green State Buildings (H422)
Requires new state-financed buildings and major renovations of existing buildings to exceed national energy efficiency codes adopted by the state. Provides for buildings that cannot meet the requirements. This bill has been significantly weakened, reducing requirements that state buildings meet 30 percent above minimum energy codes to now meeting 10 percent above those codes. In effect, it does not require anything from the state that the state is not already doing, and it does not include Idaho among the states that are setting a standard for their own buildings.
Status: Passed the House 55-11-4 on Feb. 7. Killed by Senate State Affairs in a 5-4 vote, but revived in a weakened form. Easily passed Senate and House and sent to governor.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Kate Kelly and Curt McKenzie; Reps. Eric Anderson, George Eskridge, and Donna Boe.
Contact: 332-1315

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 to help support the office’s operations.
Status: Signed by governor March 19. Trailer bill to provide required funding shift up in JFAC Monday.
Sponsor: Office of Energy Resources Administrator Paul Kjellander
Contact: 287-4903

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 and referred to Senate State Affairs. Dead this session.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Elliot Werk (prime sponsor), Curt Mckenzie, Stan Bastian; Reps. George Eskridge, Sue Chew, Eric Anderson
Contact: 322-1000

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: Signed by governor March 20.
Sponsor(s): U.S. Geothermal, Inc.
Contact: 434-1027

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: Killed in the Senate, 13-20-2. Voting against the measure were Sens. Steven Bair, Stan Bastian, Joyce Broadsword, Dean Cameron, Denton Darrington, Bart Davis, Russell Fulcher, John Goedde, James Hammond, Lee Heinrich, Brent Hill, Michael Jorgenson, Shawn Keough, Patti Anne Lodge, John McGee, Shirley McKague, Curt McKenzie, Monty Pearce, Mel Richardson, and Jeff Siddoway.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Kate Kelly, Clint Stennett, David Langhorst, and Gary Schroeder; Reps. Wendy Jaquet, Sharon Block and Sue Chew
Contact: 332-1351

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: Signed by governor March 14.
Sponsor(s): Reps. Eric Anderson, Bob Nonini, Lawrence Denney, Mike Moyle, Scott Bedke, Ken Roberts, George Eskridge, Frank Henderson and Cliff Bayer
Contact: 332-1000

State Production Tax Exemption for Areva Uranium Plant (H561)
Exempts a proposed uranium enrichment plant by French-controlled Areva, Inc., from the state’s sales and use tax. This is a single-company bill designed specifically for the foreign-owned company that is seeking the best tax deals among five states it is considering for its uranium facility.
Status: Approved by the House, 60-10 on March 5; approved by Senate 27-7-1; sent to governor.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Brent Hill; Sens. Bart Davis, Jeff Siddoway, Melvin Richardson, Steve Bair; Reps. Scott Bedke, Jim Marriott, Janice McGeachin, Dean Mortimer, Russ Mathews, Mack Shirley, Del Raybould, and Mike Moyle.
Contact: 322-1000

County Property Tax Cap for Areva Uranium Plant (H562)
Another Areva-specific bill would cap county property taxes at $400 million for a company investing at least $1 billion in a project.
Status: Approved by House, 41-27-2 on March 5; approved by Senate 23-11-1; sent to governor.
Sponsor(s): Rep. Dennis Lake; Sens. Bart Davis, Brent Hill, Jeff Siddoway, Melvin Richardson and Steve Bair; Reps. Scott Bedke, Jim Marriott, Janice McGeachin, Dean Mortimer, Russ Mathews, Mack Shirley, Del Raybould, and Mike Moyle.
Contact: 332-1000

Renewables Development on State Endowment Lands (HCR054)
Would promote the development of renewable energy projects on state-owned endowment lands. The non-binding measure “encourages” the governor, the Office of Energy Resources, and the Land Board “to work toward the development of energy production of renewable resources on state endowment lands for the purpose of maximizing the potential returns for education.”
Status: Approved by House; awaiting Senate approval.
Sponsor(s): Reps Eric Anderson and Bob Nonini; Speaker Lawrence Denney; Reps. Mike Moyle, Scott Bedke, Ken Roberts, George Eskridge, Frank Henderson, Cliff Bayer.
Contact: 332-1000

II: Owyhee Nuke Plant: County P&Z to Rule On Controversial Towers March 26
As reported last week, the Owyhee County Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed a proposal by Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. and the Idaho Energy Complex to make legal two data collection towers that were erected without county approval. Nuke plant developer Don Gillispie wants county approval for a 10-meter (33-foot) and 60-meter (197-foot) tower, as well as two office trailers that have already been erected and located at the would-be nuclear plant site on Tindall Road near Bruneau. There’s no reason to expect the county will deny anything Mr. Gillispie asks for, including this permit to build towers that were actually built last year.

However, the county is accepting public comment on possible “findings and conclusions” or possible restrictions that should be placed on Mr. Gilispie’s firms. At its March 14 meeting, the commission decided to defer a decision for two weeks – until March 26. Comments should be sent to Mr. James Desmond, care of the Owyhee County Planning and Zoning Department. It’s at PO Box 128, Murphy, ID 83650. The fax is (208) 495-2051 and the office phone is (208) 495-2095.

III: Idaho Power to Issue RFP for More Energy; Seeks Approval to Recover Costs of New Gas Plant
Idaho Power recently announced plans to issue a “request for proposals” (RFP) to acquire between 250-600MW of firm energy beginning in 2012. Idaho’s largest utility will likely formally issue the RFP in April. The company will be looking for more power as it shifts away from coal-fired power plants to other possible energy resources. The company said in a news release that it expects to confine new firm energy resources to its “control area” given that transmission constraints make importing significant amounts of power from outside Idaho impractical.
Meanwhile, the company filed with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to seek to recover $64.9 million from customers for its new 170MW natural gas plant near Mountain Home. The request would mean an increase of 1.4 percent to utility customers. The actual amount to ratepayers may increase, however, as more transmission costs are added in the future.
Those interested in learning more about this case can find the docket (IPC-E-08-01) by going to and going to “File Room” and then “Electrical Cases”. The PUC will take comments on the request through May 13.

On the Agenda:

► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will hold a public workshop at 9:30 a.m. March 27 at the PUC headquarters at 472 W. Washington in Boise to discuss Avista Corp’s application to implement a pilot project to remotely disconnect and reconnect power to customers. The case, which can be found at and by clicking “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and then going to AVU-E-07-09, was controversial when first proposed because of concerns over how it might impact lower-income customers. Groups including the Community Action Partnership of Idaho (CAPAI) and AARP of Idaho have filed comments expressing concerns about the company’s request. Those groups and Avista have met to try to reach an agreement that would protect customers. PUC and company staff will be available to answer questions and explain the case at the March 27 workshop.
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meeting on March 31. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at
► The NW Energy Coalition’s spring conference and board meeting is May 30-31 in Helena. Go to for registration and other information, including the draft agenda.
► The Idaho Green Expo runs May 17-18 at the Boise Centre on the Grove in Boise. See for more information.