Nuke planner submits CUP application, Watchdog group criticizes company’s ethics
Matt Christensen
Times-News writer
July 18, 2007

BRUNEAU – The permitting process is underway for a proposed nuclear power plant in Owyhee County, as an Idaho watchdog group continues to blast the company and its plans.

Alternate Energy Holdings, a company that plans to build Idaho’s first commercial nuclear power plant, submitted a conditional-use permit application Monday to Owyhee County Planning and Zoning.

The door is now open for the company to pursue federal licensing as the county reviews the permit, and a public comment period is also expected to begin soon.

This latest development marks another success for the fledgling company – it announced last month it had received a $3.5 billion funding commitment from a New York investment firm – despite heavy opposition from environmental organizations such as nuclear watchdog Snake River Alliance.

SRA says the company and its associates are shady at best. For example, AEH President and CEO Don Gillispie announced the plant was coming to Idaho before he’d contacted anyone at the county level. AEH’s major financing firm has mostly funded smaller projects such as ice-cream parlors, as reported by The Associated Press. And the company’s primary consultant, Mark Pecchenino,
resigned in January from an Ada County position days after an investigation determined he’d violated the county’s ethics policy.

Pecchenino was doing business in Elmore County the same time he was an Ada County employee. His supervisors admitted they knew about his dealings but were unaware it violated the policy.

“I had planned on resigning anyway,” Pecchenino said Tuesday.

Elmore County officials wrote Pecchenino a letter of recommendation shortly after his resignation, lauding his integrity. “I am credible and I do good work,” Pecchenino said.

SRA isn’t so sure. “This guy was caught moonlighting,” said Ester Ceja, outreach director at the watchdog group. “And he’s supposed to have ethics?”

AEH stands by Pecchenino, said Martin Johncox, a spokesman for the company.

The public is yet to officially weigh in on controversial plans for the nuclear plant, but that will soon change. A public comment period expected to include 20 public meetings begins soon, though dates for the meetings are yet to be scheduled.

Times-News staff writer Matt Christensen covers the environment. He welcomes comments at
735-3243 and at [email protected].