Nuke Developer’s Suit Against Snake River Alliance Dismissed
Media Release
Jan. 26, 2009
Contact: Andrea Shipley, Executive Director
(208) 344-9161
Email: [email protected]
Attorney: David W. Knotts
Quane Smith LLP
(208) 345-8600

The Fourth Judicial District Court in Ada County has dismissed the lawsuit brought against the Snake River Alliance by the developer of a proposed nuclear reactor above the Snake River in Elmore County. The dismissal establishes that Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley did not defame the company by referring to it and its chief officer as “scammers.”

Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. sued the Alliance and Shipley on Aug. 22, charging that Shipley defamed it by pointing out its financial and administrative struggles, and by concluding that “these guys are scamming Idahoans.” At the time Chief Executive Officer Don Gillispie boasted that “[s]omeone has to hold them accountable. They have used defamation tactics since the day we announced this plant and the media has {sic} obliged them by spreading their fabrications.” He also accused the Alliance of attempting to drive down the price of AEHI stock, which on Tuesday night was listed at 7.5 cents a share with more than 74 million shares outstanding. In its Complaint AEHI asked the Court to require the Snake River Alliance and Shipley to retract their statements, to prohibit them from further “disparaging statements,” and to award it money damages.

The Snake River Alliance immediately moved to dismiss AEHI’s lawsuit. The Alliance defended Shipley’s statements of opinion concerning AEHI as free speech protected from liability by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In its brief to the Court the Alliance cautioned that “[p]ermitting this punitively designed action to proceed would have a chilling effect on public discourse over [AEHI’s] controversial project.”

When the time came for AEHI to respond, it merely filed a document indicating it did not dispute the Alliance’s contention that Ms. Shipley’s statements were not defamatory as they expressed her opinions on an issue of public concern. AEHI attempted to explain itself by claiming that it had “filed this lawsuit in order to establish either (1) that the alleged statement of fact was false and defamatory, or (2) that this statement was merely one of opinion and not fact.” Upon this filing, the Court promptly dismissed AEHI’s lawsuit “on the merits,” and entered a Judgment in favor of the Alliance and Ms. Shipley.

Lead counsel for the Alliance, David Knotts, commented, “AEHI’s explanation for its lawsuit is totally belied by the Complaint it filed against my clients. AEHI sued for defamation, and asked the Court to muzzle my clients and punish them with a substantial monetary judgment. There was no request for the Court to find Ms. Shipley’s statements to be opinions, which are by definition non-defamatory. By acquiescing to the Motion to Dismiss, AEHI really is admitting that its defamation lawsuit was meritless from the beginning.”

Shipley said her opinions about AEHI haven’t changed. She observed that AEHI has had a history of making misleading statements to the Idaho public and to local government agencies since it arrived in Idaho with its ill-advised nuclear reactor scheme in early 2007.

“In his short time in Idaho, Mr. Gillispie has built what appears to me to be a record of misrepresenting the environmental toll his nuclear reactor scheme would take on Idaho. He has claimed multiple times that he is lining up the financing for his project, yet it has not materialized. First he tried to sell his plant in Owyhee County, where AEHI illegally erected two towers and where the county had to hound it to pay the $50,000 promised to offset the cost of his application. Then Gillispie pulled up stakes and took his nomad nuclear plant up the Snake River to Elmore County, where the Planning and Zoning Commission rightly determined the project was a blatant violation of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.” Gillispie did not attend any of the four Elmore P&Z public hearings on his project.

Shipley also said Gillispie continues to claim AEHI will sell his power to Idaho utilities, yet the utilities don’t appear interested. Last summer, he suddenly disappeared from a legislative hearing on his project minutes before he was called to testify. He has changed the vendor for his reactor. He doesn’t own the land for the reactor and apparently can’t afford to buy it. And AEHI’s net loss is piling up, with the most recent financial report putting it at more than $8 million. She said Gillispie also continues to tout his plant’s cost at $4.5 billion, when the nuclear industry puts the actual cost at more than twice that.

“The Snake River Alliance Idaho’s nuclear watchdog; it’s our job to shed light on projects like this,” Shipley said. “All we did was speak out against the misrepresentations Gillispie and other AEHI representatives have continued to make about this horrible idea. We won’t be deterred by AEHI’s retaliatory tactics.”

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.

NOTE TO REPORTERS AND EDITORS: More information on Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits is available at: