Idaho Energy Update
July 23, 2010
Transmission lines are the theme of the week. The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have set a series of scoping meetings to gather public sentiment on Idaho Power’s proposed Boardman to Hemingway transmission line from Owyhee County south of the Snake River to Boardman, Ore., on the Columbia River. Meanwhile, BLM said it’s delaying this summer’s release of an environmental study on the proposed Gateway West transmission line from the coal and renewable energy generation plants in central Wyoming across southern Idaho to the Hemingway substation in Owyhee County to more closely examine such sensitive issues as sage grouse habitat. And Boise- based U.S. Geothermal is making progress on a new geothermal power plant at its San Emidio project in Nevada, while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has finally agreed to hold a second Idaho hearing on the controversial proposed Areva uranium enrichment factory near Idaho Falls. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: BLM to Prepare EIS for Boardman-Hemingway Transmission Line
Federal land managers have set a series of scoping meetings in Idaho and Oregon to gather public comment on Idaho Power’s proposed Boardman to Hemingway transmission line.
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon are actually re-starting the early stages of the environmental review process after Idaho Power decided to re-evaluate locations for the proposed 500kv power line. The 300-mile Boardman to Hemingway project would connect Idaho Power’s Hemingway substation near Melba with a substation in Boardman, Ore., near the Columbia River. Idaho Power says the project would create more transmission capacity to move renewable and other energy between Idaho Power’s service territory and the Pacific Northwest, where renewable energy is rapidly expanding. Current transmission lines between the two points are often clogged and struggle to accommodate large amounts of new wind generation in Oregon and Washington.
The current proposed route for the line crosses federal, state and private lands in six counties in Oregon and Idaho. The scoping meetings will be held in communities near the proposed route. They will run from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will include formal presentations from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The locations:
Aug. 2 at the Bluer Mountain Conference Center in La Grande; Aug. 3 at the Best Western Sunridge Inn in Baker City; Aug. 4 at the Pendleton Convention Center in Pendleton; Aug. 5 a the Mt. Vernon Community Hall in Mt. Vernon; Aug. 9 at the Marsing American Legion Community Center in Marsing; Aug. 10 at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario; Aug. 11 at the Port of Morrow Riverfront Center in Boardman; and Aug. 12 at the Harney County Community Services Center in Burns.
Idaho Power is concluding a series of Community Advisory Process meetings of its own in many of the same communities. Last year, Idaho’s largest utility drew criticism from residents and local government leaders in New Plymouth, Ontario, Vale, and other communities along a prior route for the transmission line. They charged that Idaho Power was developing a route for the line without consulting local communities, prompting Idaho Power to rework the proposal and launch an aggressive community outreach program.
For more information on the project, go to www.boardmantohemingway.com
II: BLM Delays Release of Gateway West Transmission EIS
The Bureau of Land Management has delayed the release of its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the proposed Idaho Power-Rocky Mountain Power Gateway West transmission line until the fourth quarter of this year rather than this summer.
The 500kv transmission line would connect coal and renewable generation resources in central and western Wyoming and Idaho Power’s Hemingway substation near Melba. The 1,150-mile transmission line has generated controversy particularly in some southern Idaho communities that have complained about its impacts on their growth opportunities, the environment, and aesthetics. Idaho Power says the line is needed to facilitate renewable energy development and its transmission; critics question whether the need exists, particularly as more utilities throttle down their coal generation in favor of cleaner renewables and natural gas.
BLM said it’s delaying release of the EIS “in order to address comments received during the internal administrative review process as well as to clarify management objectives related to sage grouse, visual and other public resources.”
“We continue to work to ensure that the draft EIS addresses the key issues throughout the project area and want to ensure adequate time to prepare this important document,” BLM Project Manager Walt George said in a news release. “Once the draft EIS is released, the BLM will host a 90-day comment period and public hearings to formally gather comments. The BLM encourages the public’s continued participation in this project.”
To view BLM’s Gateway West site, go to www.wy.blm.gov/nepa/cfodocs/gateway_west
III: U.S. Geothermal Progressing on New Nevada Power Project
Boise-based U.S. Geothermal announced earlier this week it has entered into an agreement for engineering and construction of a new 8.6 megawatt geothermal plant at its San Emidio project in northern Nevada.
U.S. Geothermal President and CEO Daniel Kunz said the turnkey project at the 35MW San Emidio development will qualify for the federal 30 percent Investment Tax Credit. The company also operates the Raft River geothermal project in southern Idaho, which sells power to Idaho Power and the Eugene Water and Electric Board, and the Neal Hot Springs northwest of Boise in Oregon, which will also sell power to Idaho Power and which recently received a conditional commitment for a $102 million loan through the U.S. Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program.
For more information, go to www.usgeothermal.com
IV: NRC Grants Second Idaho Hearing on Proposed Areva Nuke Enrichment Plant
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which had refused to hold a second public hearing on the proposed Areva uranium enrichment factory near Idaho Falls, has responded to Snake River Alliance objections and agreed to hold a second hearing in Boise.
The NRC had originally planned to hold only one public meeting in Idaho Falls on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Concerned that a lone public hearing would restrict public involvement in the hugely controversial project, the Alliance mobilized members, leading to more than 200 comments asking the NRC to hold at least one additional public hearing in Boise. Mayor Dave Bieter also wrote the NRC to urge it hold a hearing in Boise.
In an e-mail to Snake River Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley, NRC Senior Environmental Project Manager Stephen Lemont notified the Alliance of its change of heart.
“In addition to the August 12 Idaho Falls meeting, the NRC will meet with the Snake River Alliance in Boise, Idaho, on Monday, August 9, 2010, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.,” Lemont wrote. “The public will be invited to attend and provide comments as in the Idaho Falls meeting. A court reporter will be present to transcribe the meeting. All comments received during both public meetings, as well as during the rest of the public comment period, will be taken into consideration by the NRC staff in preparing the Final EIS.” The location for the Boise meeting will be announced at a later date.
Shipley said the NRC’s change of plans is welcome news, particularly given the profound impacts such as nuclear facility would have in Idaho and beyond.
Areva wants to build a $4 billion gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant that would be big enough to fuel 50 nuclear reactors. While the nuclear fuel would be sent worldwide and Areva’s profits would be sent home to France, the resulting depleted uranium waste from the process would remain atop Idaho’s Snake River Aquifer for decades. The Alliance has also raised concerns about the possible threats posed by the transportation of radioactive materials into and out of Idaho.
The uranium enrichment process proposed by Areva is all the more problematic because, unlike most radioactive waste, the depleted uranium created through enrichment gets increasingly radioactive for each of the 1 million years after it’s generated. In addition, the NRC has only recently begun to study how to dispose of the waste.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on July 26 and Aug. 2, 9, 16. 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.