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Snake River Alliance does Idaho no favors June 3, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, anti-renewable energy, economic benefits, Greenfield nuclear development, Mountain Home News, renewable energy, Snake River Alliance.
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[We submitted this opinion to the Mountain Home news last month but space constraints kept it from being published.]

Democracy gives people a lot of latitude in how to get something done, or to stop it from being done. The events over the last few weeks have been really useful in showing how we and the Snake River Alliance differ on those counts. Heat doesn’t substitute for light and even a group as prickly as the Snake River Alliance should know that a civil tone will help public discussion of important issues like energy.

Our efforts to prepare for the April 20 rezone hearing were aboveboard and successful. We launched a public information campaign to let people know about our table to collect resumes and letters of interest and around 500 showed up and wore stickers supporting AEHI. I spoke at clubs, groups, associations, business and anywhere else people would have me, and not all of these venues were friendly.

We collected 1,600 signatures through much hard work going door-to-door, going to food lines, going to workplaces, going to places the SRA wouldn’t bother going. We produced an informational video and mailed it to each household in Elmore County. We sent a letter to every resident of Hammett to address their specific concerns. We launched a traditional advertising campaign and used the new tools of social media to get the word out.

In contrast, the Snake River Alliance prepared for the rezone hearing with bizarre and unethical gimmicks. A week or so before the hearing, the SRA complained to the Glenns Ferry Police Department that I shoved SRA employee Liz Woodruff at a March 10 Glenns Ferry City Council meeting – in a room full of the public, city officials and police officers, no less! The authorities did their duty and, after interviewing me and other people, found the accusation without merit. Clearly, the SRA was fishing for an “October surprise” a week before the rezone hearing, hoping to smear my reputation and throw the meeting into disarray.

These shenanigans have no place in public policy. It probably didn’t help the SRA that Mrs. Woodruff on March 24 publicly apologized to the Glenns Ferry City Council for her childish behavior at that March 10 council meeting, where she sought to disrupt my presentation.

All this is relevant because it speaks to the SRA’s involvement in the public process. As hard as they try to keep a veneer of civility, they openly and behind-the-scenes do what they can do disrupt the local process. Apparently, they were able to restrain themselves more or less for the rezone hearing, but they and their supporters formed “groups” to get more speaking time. Then, individual members of the “groups” spoke, violating the principle the county established for recognizing groups .

Clearly, the SRA does best when surrounded by supporters and friends, but their thin-skinned nature leads them to do some strange things. For example, sometimes the SRA seems immune to common sense. To emphasize that nuclear plants are a good fit with rural areas, we showed pictures of cows grazing a stone’s throw from nuclear plants and Andrea Shipley’s response was to say “the property at issue is not grazed by cows” (actually, cows graze the only adjacent private land). As the SRA well knows, our plant would take up around 200 acres, with the remainder of the 1,300 acre parcel to remain farmland.

To say our plant would “upend surrounding ag uses” is preposterous. For the real story on how our plant would affect the area, see my open letter to the citizens of Hammett at http://www.cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com. There are plenty of photos of nuclear plants surrounded by hayfields, wildlife habitat, estuaries and near small towns (yes, we’re well aware there are no estuaries in Elmore County).

In the face of our campaign, the SRA says the jobs will never materialize – but the SRA is working as hard as it can to stop the jobs from ever materializing. We’ve already put 100 Idahoans to work and as long as investors continue to fund us, that’s their concern, not the SRA’s. They say we haven’t finalized enough details about our plant, but you know if we had every detail plotted out they’d complain we were being presumptuous. At this stage, we are simply seeking to rezone the land, yet they chide us for not having each and every aspect of our plant finalized.

Speaking of our business, Ms. Shipley breathlessly states the obvious in quoting our SEC report, which says “AEHI has limited funds and such funds will not be adequate to carry out the business plan without borrowing significant funds. The ultimate success of AEHI may depend upon its ability to raise additional capital … and it could fail.” OK, so we openly admit don’t have enough money to build a nuclear reactor and need more investment to build it. So? Utilities, developers, companies and anyone else building anything must seek investment capital as well.

Ms. Shipley is either uneducated about start-up public companies, or she is seeking to misrepresent our funding picture. We are the only publicly owned company in the nation seeking to build an independent nuclear power plant; traditional utilities, for whatever reasons, haven’t constructed enough power plants and we are stepping up to meet the demand. Like any other start-up, we seek investment for what we propose. If we get it, we may succeed, and if we don’t, we fail. Anyone who has run a business, or who is not terribly out-of-touch with business, understands that.

The Snake River Alliance’s contempt for working people is evident in its own site, as well as those of supporters. Among the drawbacks of our plant, according to the SRA’s Jan. 9 news release, would be “thousands of construction workers” in Elmore County (http://tinyurl.com/qxgnm9). I guess if someone has a problem with construction workers, that would be a concern, but to people who are willing to work hard and get something built, it’s an insult. Or, this gem from http://tinyurl.com/p43rar, refers this way to people who came to our table: “To what degree will these curbside applicants feel like darned fools?”

If this is the best the Snake River Alliance can offer, it has grossly underestimated our tenacity, the depth of our support and the necessity of our enterprise.

Ms. Shipley claimed I am “obsessed with counting stickers” but that is the closest she comes to acknowledging the truth: People at the meeting were overwhelmingly supportive of the rezone and the SRA’s vaunted community organizing efforts didn’t produce much in that regard. The best Ms. Shipley can do is to discount our efforts to create jobs and say the jobs won’t come soon enough, or at all, or they won’t be for Elmore residents – while simultaneously doing all she can to stop the jobs from ever coming. Tactically, the SRA was out-hustled, but that in itself means nothing as the ultimate measure of success lies with the Elmore County Commission.

Most valuable are the resumes of hundreds of highly qualified, hardworking Idahoans we collected and hope to call on as soon as we can. They and thousands of other supporters hope we prevail over the SRA and its newfound allies.

Anti-nukes use another two-faced approach when they say nuclear power shouldn’t be pursued because we have no place to store or reprocess the waste, but then they work against storage and reprocessing solutions. It’s worth pointing out Areva is planning for reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in the US (http://tinyurl.com/pwfblo). The firm recently shared with bloggers its conceptual thinking about a 800 ton/year plant which it says is the answer to apparent end of the Yucca Mountain repository project.

Given the traditional antagonism between environmental groups like the SRA and agriculture, it is not surprising Ms. Shipley is out of touch with ag issues. News alert for Ms. Shipley: Farming in Idaho is largely constrained by the high cost of water, because pumping that water is becoming increasingly expensive. Irrigators currently pay close to 4 cents per kilowatt hour, but Idaho Power is asking for an 11.1 percent increase in that rate. Many farmers spend thousands of dollars a month on power costs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, it costs 1.8 cents to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity with nuclear power, and that power is produced more than 90 percent of the time (http://tinyurl.com/2pgc8k).

This kind of reliable low-cost power is exactly what high-lift irrigators and other farmers need to stay economically competitive. According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind costs around 5 cents per kilowatt hour (http://tinyurl.com/kyg8u) with federal subsidies – when it’s blowing, which is around 20 percent of the time on average. Ms. Shipley should know business can’t operate under those power terms; we only make it work by importing half our energy for out-of-state coal plants.

It strains belief that Ms. Shipley would claim “Idaho is not out of power … Idaho has ample electricity resources.” Perhaps she should tell that laughable claim to the two major employers who bypassed southern Idaho in 2007 because Idaho Power couldn’t provide electricity! Surely, she is just as disappointed as the rest of us about the loss of those jobs.

The fact that Idaho imports half its energy is proof enough that we need to develop our own dispatchable baseload resources in-state. It’s no secret that Idaho Power hasn’t developed a base-load power plant in Idaho in at least 30 years, choosing instead buying shares in out-of-state coal plants. I really can’t blame them; after getting a taste of the difficulty in developing a power plant, I can see why Idaho Power has evidently given up on new baseload power in Idaho.

That brings me to my next point, which is that energy developers of all kinds are facing a harder time getting anything built, and no advocacy groups are stepping forward to support them. As you read this, dozens of rural landowners want to “curb enthusiasm for” and ultimately kill plans to plant wind turbines and string a green-field power line segment across the northern Laramie Range in Wyoming (http://tinyurl.com/polydc). The Northern Laramie Range Alliance is fighting wind energy, which the Snake River Alliance points to as the future of energy generation.

Something tells me the Snake River Alliance and its allies won’t be showing up to help these wind power developers – or anyone who’s trying to build a power plant.

Rhetorical meltdown February 21, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, anti-renewable energy, approval process, Elmore County, Energy policy, environmentalists, Idaho leadership, Mountain Home News, nuclear industry, Politics and nuclear, President Obama, Snake River Alliance, Steven Chu.
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It’s been a rough few months for the Snake River Alliance, and it shows in the shrill and over-the-top rhetoric of their news releases. I suppose it’s for the best they don’t blog and have removed from their Web site the ability for public comment.

Among the setbacks to the SRA: a pro-nuclear president and energy secretary are now in office; the SRA had to admit they were clueless when they stooped to calling us criminals; the state of Idaho has reshuffled its renewable energy priorities to better conform to reality; AREVA is moving forward with a uranium processing facility in Idaho; and the SRA has bailed on at least one public hearing to support embattled wind farm developers.

Apparently, the SRA is engaging in some fundraising by continuing its attempts to vilify us. Their latest news release, regarding our status as a fully reporting company before the SEC, is laughable to anyone with an understanding of business.

To clear up the SRA’s untruths:

• We were “four months late” filing our registration statements (on Feb. 19, we reported the SEC has accepted our registration statement, qualifying us to be a fully reporting company, conduct audits and file required financial reports for current and potential investors). This is nonsense. You can’t be late on a registration statement because there is no requirement to be fully reporting. It is a choice that public companies make to be more open.

• We didn’t disclose any lawsuits in filing our registration statement (at the time, we had a pending lawsuit against the SRA for defamation). You are only required to disclose lawsuits against your company, not lawsuits you have filed against others. Anyone who has been through this process knows that.

I failed to appear at the Legislature when invited. Very wrong. I have been invited twice to appear before an interim committee on energy (not the Legislature) and appeared both times. I testified once and the second time, the meeting ran an hour over and I had to leave to another meeting; I later emailed my remarks to the committee. The SRA knows this but conveniently forgets to mention it.

We “lost” the defamation lawsuit. After Andrea Shipley admitted she had no factual basis for calling us “scammers,” we did not object to their motion to dismiss the suit. Shipley’s critiques “generally represent the highly subjective opinions of the [speaker] rather than assertions of verifiable, objective fact,” according to the SRA court filing. Her admission that she had no factual basis for her statements is a retraction and that pleases us.

• We were late in paying a $50,000 bill to Owyhee County. We had originally proposed to build our plant in Owyhee County and the filing fee was $1,000 and we offered to pay $50,000 because of the exceptional nature of our application. We asked Owyhee County for a written bill, which we need for accountability purposes. The Mountain Home News on Oct. 8 quoted Commissioner Dick Freund: “Once notified in writing, they paid up almost immediately.”

We invite the SRA to be as open as we are and post a link to their financial statements – heck, maybe even start blogging, allow public comment and join the rest of us. The SRA’s distortions of facts and fulminations don’t substitute for a discussion of Idaho’s or America’s energy future.

Environmentalists continue fight against renewable energy January 6, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, anti-renewable energy, balanced approach, Energy policy, environmentalists, renewable energy, Snake River Alliance, Solar energy, Wind energy.
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Normally, the media are very starry-eyed when reporting on renewable energy. When it comes to coverage of nuclear power, the media are extremely skeptical and ask the tough questions (as all good journalists should), but renewable get a pass and questions about reliability, viability, environmental impact and public support are rarely raised.

That’s not the case in last week’s Idaho Statesman and kudos to Rocky Barker for taking a realistic look at renewable energy. He writes, “Greener energy sources such as geothermal wells and sprawling wind farms are being touted as the nation’s environmentally friendly answer to energy independence, but so far, alternative energy developers are finding that they face many of the same conflicts as traditional generation plants.”

Among other projects, Barker looked at “the most controversial wind farm in the state,” the proposed China Mountain project, a 185-turbine farm in Twin Falls County. The project, on 30,000 acres of public land, would produce more than 400 megawatts of electricity (by comparison, our plant would produce four times that amount of energy on four percent of the area, and at 95 percent reliability, compared to around 20 for wind). Environmentalists have opposed wind farms nationwide, not just Idaho.

As Barker reports, in July, a regional Fish and Game supervisor voiced concerns about the effects the wind farm could have on wildlife, including the endangered sage grouse. Neighbors complained about the effect the wind farm would have on the views from their cabins and Advocates of the West, a group that provides lawyers for environmental groups, is preparing to challenge several wind projects planned in sagebrush habitat.

July 1, 2008, was a good example of where the priorities of some environmentalist lie. The embattled China Mountain wind farm was facing a crucial public hearing, but it was the same night as a meeting to organize opposition to our nuclear plant. When push came to shove, “We were not present at the China Mountain scoping meeting because it occurred the same night as our public meeting about the AEHI plant.” Liz Woodruff, SRA energy policy analyst, said the SRA “submitted comments regarding the proposal” but tellingly doesn’t say if they actually supported China Mountain or urged officials to approve it. The Snake River Alliance’s own mission statement declares that it can oppose specific facilities, but advocating for specific facilities isn’t part of the mission (at least give the SRA credit for sticking to its real game plan).

I think the radical environmentalist veneer is starting to fall. Something tells me the SRA didn’t try to “educate and inform” residents opposed to China Mountain, as they have done to rally opposition to our plant. Personally, I think the SRA lacks the stomach to face an angry group of neighbors and declare that a wind farm should be approved because it’s in the broader public interest. If the Snake River Alliance is out there directly supporting specific renewable facilities in public hearings, they’re doing a good job keeping it quiet.

Some environmentalists take opposition to renewable a step further. Laird Lucas, lead attorney for Advocates of the West, says he’s “skeptical that wind, solar and geothermal plants spread out across the wide open spaces of the West and linked to populated areas through vast transmissions systems are the answer to increasing carbon-free energy supplies,” according to Barker’s story.

“I think there’s a chance that these big solar farms and wind farms will be obsolete almost as soon as we develop them,” Lucas says in the story. “We need to somehow get people engaged directly in producing our own energy.”

I think some environmentalists are really aiming for a larger target and their ultimate goal is to “power down” and de-industrialize our society. I’m not making any of this up – see it at http://www.postcarbon.org and similar sites, where discussion of “societal collapse” and hopeless peak oil scenarios are enough to make you end it all today. An industrial society needs industrial energy sources and combating those sources is one way to “power down” our civilization.

In the meantime, out-of-the-mainstream environmentalists will have to content themselves with paying lip service to renewable energy, by opposing it or failing to speak up for it every chance they get. I hope the media educate the public about this more.