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Opinion roundup July 17, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, economic benefits, Elmore County, Energy policy, environmentalists, Mountain Home News, renewable energy, Snake River Alliance, Water policy, Wind energy.
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While our rezone application moves through the process at Elmore County, I thought I would post some letters to the editor and columns that have appeared lately.

Idaho Statesman, July 16, 2009
Enough delays: Approve Elmore County plant

During an Elmore County commissioners’ meeting, supporters of the nuclear power plant outnumbered opponents 5-to-1 and 1,600 petition signatures were submitted in support. Yet, after a year of hearings, the answer from commissioners was the comprehensive plan is outdated and go back to square one. Those opposing are few: a discounted far-left environmental group and a handful of Hammett farmers who support nuclear power but want it constructed in a different location. From the hearings I have attended, radio debates I’ve listened to, and discussions with both farmers and Hammett residents, their responses are loud and clear: the majority of Idahoans are in favor of the power plant and they recognize that this is our big chance to attract large companies who bring stable jobs but need more than what Idaho Power can provide them with. It’s what Idaho has been looking for and it’s what Idaho desperately needs to lead the Northwest and the United States in clean power. My plea to the commissioners is to please stop stalling by appeasing a few and start representing the majority voice. Let us help ourselves to have a brighter future by approving this power plant.

KEVIN F. AMAR, Meridian

Mountain Home News, July 15, 2009
If you want growth, nuclear power plant is viable option

Dear editor:
As I sit here on Saturday morning, June 20, 2009, I look outside my window and see Idaho’s energy future. At least the future that many near-sighted folks want us to put all our faith and trust. It is completely still with nary a whisper of wind to turn even the most efficient wind turbine and so overcast that solar power couldn’t power up an LED bulb.

Naive, I am not. I know this is not the norm for Elmore County; but to set so much reliance on wind, water and solar cannot be our standard for the future of energy for the Pacific Northwest, Western United States, or even the United States as a whole

We cannot afford any more coal powered plants — that is a given. We must invest in other means of powering our society with the electrical demands we have established. Whether for our homes, computers, cell phones, mobile phones, or even the increased future of hybrid or solely electric vehicles — we need electricity! That fact will not go away lest we make the conscious decision to revert back to the 1800s. We can do that, but mind you, it will make it very difficult to continue advances (or even sustain our current abilities) in medicine or just how we live from day to day. If we minimize production, whatever electricity we might have given to us would go first to the established leadership of our county, second to the military, third to health care and finally to Joe Average — come to think of it, it reminds me of how things were divided in Stalinist Russia.

I have heard the discussions before the P&Z, the County Commissioners, read the articles, blogs and opinions in the Mountain Home News and watched the DVD. I’ve listened to the arguments, pro and con, that take place throughout the county and I must say that the controversy over a rezone application has this whole county stymied.

I have seen how people outside of Elmore County have been brought in and have gotten deep into our business. Were they invited — yes, however; when the final decision is made, are they going to be living here to deal with the first-hand consequences of that decision? NO, they won’t!

I have lived in several areas around the United States and around the world. I have lived in areas of extreme prosperity and in utter poverty — and as a personal preference, I chose the comforts of prosperity. I heard it said at one meeting that, “…electricity is overrated.” We, in these United States, are accustomed to many hi-tech devices that we may not know how they work, it just suits our cause when and because they work. I’m not an expert, but I think it requires electricity to take such things as X-rays for proper dental work, broken bone manipulation or detailed neurological procedures. I seem to remember that farmers need electricity to run the water pumps for their irrigation lines in order to get to the point of harvest of hay, corn, wheat or potatoes. I know it is very time consuming to milk dairy cattle by hand and when you have upwards of 5,000 or 6,000 head of cattle that require two milkings per day it can be a VERY time consuming job, unless a dairy has the financial resources to employ hundreds of workers and we wish to pay $10 or more for a gallon of milk.

Since the time I arrived in Idaho in 1997, my power bill has tripled. When I arrived, I too asked the question of why isn’t wind or solar energy being harnessed. The standard response was hydro power is so cheap and plentiful.

So in 12 years, we’ve experienced drought, population growth, economic downturn and a serious lack to decisively invest into new sources of power. We are now so far behind the power curve it’s pitiful. To have known it would come to this level of disparity was unthinkable. No one could have known, but we did have the knowledge and resources available during the good years that could have made these tough times a bit more bearable, had we prepared.

I know the issues of rezone, water use, nuclear power, availability of suitable farm land all have their supporters and opponents to some degree, but the desired advancement throughout time has been this: we seek to make better, to use more efficiently, to build in a margin of safety wherever possible.

If we seek to “do it right,” I believe the co-existence of these issues is entirely possible, plausible and suitable for Elmore County.

Fears, yes, they exist because the human factor exists. But if we become so captivated by those fears that we become frozen in place rather than being motivated to exercise caution and seek safety at every turn to make it better, we can go forward with an expectation of success for everyone.

Of all the nuclear power facilities in the world — have all been failures? Have all been shut down because of fears of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island? Have we not learned from the mistakes that were made of improper design? Has not the Nuclear Regulatory Commission been involved to inspect and certify plants for the public’s safety?

Our world is constantly changing. I enjoy the rural lifestyle of Elmore County and even get fed up with traffic surges that happen twice daily throughout the workweek. But change required stoplights to be installed, road maintenance and improvements to be accomplished; all because we are growing county and that is already a fact of life.

If we want to keep our status quo, then we need to limit our household growths to 1 or 2 children, mandated by law (I think that idea was called Zero Population Growth — back in the ’70s and ’80s; it didn’t work) — reminds me of current day China. Mountain Home has about doubled in size since the 1990s and will probably continue to grow as time goes on. This doesn’t even include the rest of southwestern Idaho, which has seen a marked growth since the mid-1990s.

Change is inevitable and with change comes new requirements. Satisfaction of those requirements must be met and for an economy that means taxes, or housing, or jobs, or transportation, or construction or a myriad of things to meet those requirements.

So what do we do? We have a company that wishes to come into Elmore County (it really didn’t matter to this company where they came in as was evidenced by the Owyhee County course of events and to know that they were invited) to take a piece of land that is not prime and to establish an enterprise on that land.

If it was prime farmland, people would be scrambling at every opportunity to obtain and farm the land. It is land that does have farmable soil and relatively good position to highway and rail support. But the slope of the landscape causes high water drainage and proximity to the Snake River, which funnels the air and causes high evaporation of the remaining moisture content greatly decreases the viable use of this parcel of land for great farming purposes.

This company proposes to level the land, build a viable enterprise, boost the economy and improve the infrastructure of Elmore County. Would they be so determined in their efforts to complete this venture unless they were serious? Fact or fiction?

If you don’t want to promote growth, provide jobs and make improvements to Elmore County, then takes these objectives out of your plans, otherwise; make the plans coincide properly with these objectives, allow the rezone, and move forward.

Roy D. Newer II

Mountain Home News, July 15, 2009
Nuclear power plnt would be a boon to local economy

Dear editor:
This past spring, I spent quite a bit of time doing community organizing work in Elmore County on the rezone for Alternate Energy Holdings Inc.’s proposed power plant. This included visiting Elmore County towns for petition signatures and showing people how they could get involved in the effort to bring well-paying jobs and clean industry to Elmore County.

It was hard work and exciting, but I wasn’t emotionally prepared for the poverty I would see going door-to-door in Glenns Ferry and Hammett. In homes, food lines, businesses and on the street, I came across hardworking people very worried about their futures and how they would keep a roof over their heads. Many were seasonal agricultural workers.

Economic development is a social justice issue. Many times, influential people who run the established order want to keep things the way they are. That’s not necessarily a bad thing especially if, like Elmore County farmers, they work hard, employ people and produce a needed product like food.

However, if the established order also includes keeping people in poverty, there is something very, very wrong with that. One way to address it is through government programs. But for people to be truly economically self-sufficient, they need family-wage jobs with benefits. A power plant with 500 direct jobs, 1,500 spin-off jobs and average wages of $80,000 is one way to do it.

There is great need: according to Census Bureau data, poverty rates in the Glenns Ferry and Hammett ZIP codes are between 17 and 21 percent, well above the 12 percent state average (http://tinyurl.com/nra2jg). Of course, there are other ways to provide these jobs and if anyone else genuinely wants to provide family-wage jobs with a new industry, I urge them to submit their plans.

Also, the industries that create these family-wage jobs are taxed at much higher industrial and commercial rates. Those taxes pay for school, fire, police, parks, libraries, planning, administration, roads and lowering the taxes of everyone else. Currently, agricultural taxes simply don’t provide this level of local government funding. A power plant should also go above and beyond tax obligations and construct public buildings, establish scholarships and run a foundation for the privilege of being in a community.

It’s sad to hear people say, “The nuclear plant won’t hire Elmore people,” as though Elmore residents can’t work in a security-conscious, technically-oriented setting. I think Elmore residents are among the best qualified for nuclear plant jobs, because many are veterans or used to work at Mountain Home Air Force Base. A nuclear plant has many military aspects, including extreme security consciousness; a highly trained, armed security force; and strong safety culture.

Most jobs at a nuclear plant don’t require a college degree and some don’t require high levels of training: foodservice, janitors, landscaping and materials handling. Other jobs need training ranging from certification to advanced college degrees: mechanics, security officers, technicians, office workers, pipefitters, attorneys, managers, electricians or nuclear physicists. We believe Elmore residents already qualify for the vast majority of these jobs. We hope bright Elmore County youths will be able to return home and work at our plant or spin-off industries. In addition, the plentiful power from a nuclear plant will attract other industry.

Best of all, agriculture can continue as it always has, although wages for ag jobs may rise in a competitive job market. Our nuclear plant would occupy just 200 acres. As is common with nuclear plants, the land around ours will continue to be farmed and create a security buffer. Interestingly, the American Farm Bureau calls for increased use of nuclear power (http://tinyurl.com/kokgnq).

Environmental groups normally align themselves with social justice causes. But in this case, some are working alongside a few Hammett-area farmers to, in effect, keep struggling people from accessing better-paid jobs and opportunity. In this clash of principles, the struggling families of Elmore County have been on the losing side.

The environmental groups might say “We’re not against family-wage jobs, but a nuclear plant isn’t the way to do it.” To which I respond: If you cared to ask the struggling families of Elmore County what they think and want, you might not be so eager to tell them no.

Martin Johncox,

Boise

(Editor’s note: Johncox handles public relations for AEHI).

Economic opportunity in Elmore County June 11, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, economic benefits, Elmore County, rural nuclear.
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There’s an important subtext in the controversy about our proposed nuclear power plant in Elmore County. It’s uncomfortable and sensitive to discuss, but it needs to be done.

This is an issue of economic and social justice.  Yes, we seek to enrich ourselves and our investors by building a power plant and, in the American spirit of capitalism, create a useful product, create family-wage jobs and do our part keeping society running (the same could be said of any successful farm, factory or business). If our plans are defeated, the Snake River Alliance will go back to their homes in Sun Valley and Boise’s North End, the farmers will go back to their farms, and the two groups will likely never speak to each other again after popping the champagne. Meanwhile, issues of social and economic justice in Elmore County will remain unaddressed.

I believe the SRA and a few vocal Hammett-area farmers have little interest in bringing more well-paying jobs to the area, because any such proposal is totally absent from their plans. The only reason farmers and environmental activists even talk to each other in this case is because they share a common goal in stopping our power plant. Beyond that, they have no hopes or dreams, other than to keep things just as they are.

The Snake River Alliance and their newfound allies, some Hammett-area farmers, have collected 100 petition signatures against rezoning the land for our plant. I seriously doubt, though, the SRA and friends sought petition signatures at food assistance lines, at downtowns, at trailer parks, at senior centers, or at a jobs fair of their own creation. We did and collected 1,600 signatures, about half of them from Elmore County residents.

Let’s look at some demographic figures. According to the U.S. Census, 12 percent of Elmore County residents live below the poverty level, about the same as in the rest of Idaho. With a 2008 population of 29,000, that’s about 3,480 people who do not earn enough to meet basic needs for themselves or their families.

To get a closer look at Hammett and Glenns Ferry, we need to rely on 2000 Census data from zipskinny.com.

  • In the 83627 ZIP of Hammett (population 616), 16.9 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, much higher than the rest of Elmore County. The median household income was $34,000. Interestingly, about 39 people in the Hammett ZIP code reported making more than $200,000 a year. About 35 percent of the Hammett ZIP Code identified as Hispanic.
  • In the 83623 ZIP code of Glenns Ferry (population 1,938), more than 21 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, significantly higher than the rest of Elmore County. The median household income was $29,600, although around 19 people reported making more than $200,000 a year. About 29 percent of Glenns Ferry ZIP code residents identified themselves as Hispanic.

Hammett-area farmers have worked hard to establish their livelihoods so if any of them are in the group of people earning $200,000 a year, they have undeniably worked hard for it. But I don’t think we came across any of that elite group in the towns of Hammett or Glenns Ferry.

These figures suggest a larger-than-average percentage of Glenns Ferry and Hammett-area residents are “economically disenfranchised,” as the sociologists like to say. In plain English: These families live in poverty, are struggling to make ends meet, earn below-average wages and are at risk for losing their homes, food and ability to educate themselves for a better future. Perhaps they don’t often show up at public hearings or comprehensive plan meetings or write letters to the editor, but they are there if you care to ask them what they think and hope for. If the Hammett-area farmers are among the movers and shakers in Elmore County, these people are among the moved and the shaken.

Our on-the-ground organizing work in Hammett and Glenns Ferry discovered what is easy to see to anyone who cares to look: Glenns Ferry and especially Hammett are in economic distress; they need significant investment in infrastructure; too many people live in trailers and homes in serious need of repair. Food lines are well-attended by the old, working families and the young. Glenns Ferry’s original commercial town center is largely vacant. In conversations, we found many people lost their jobs at a food processing plant or were seasonal agricultural workers and were worried about keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. Because of language differences, we had to inform many people in Spanish. “Tratamos de construir una planta de energia nuclear …”

Many of these people eagerly signed our petition and we truly hope to provide them with year-‘round family-wage jobs, good housing and a more secure life. Our opponents like to say only the lowest-level jobs would go to Elmore residents or, conversely, that Elmore residents wouldn’t qualify for any jobs. Tellingly, the people we sought out didn’t seem to share those concerns.

I’ve supervised thousands of workers in my career and a nuclear plant is very much a meritocracy. I can tell you that any Elmore County resident who passes security checks and makes it through whatever training they need may put their skills to work at our power plant. They – and their children – are as eligible as anyone else to work as landscapers, mechanics, technicians, security officers, office workers, pipefitters, attorneys, materials handlers, managers, electricians or nuclear physicists. Whatever the job, the power industry pays very well, with nuclear plant jobs averaging $80,000 a year. Beyond the plant itself, the abundant, low-cost energy will draw other well-paying businesses.

It seems all too easy for the Snake River Alliance to ignore these issues of economic justice and align themselves with the few landowners who rely on – and may wish to maintain – a pool of cheap labor, whatever the human cost. Their imagery of rural bliss leaves out the desperation and difficult living conditions that thousands of Elmore County residents face.

We believe hardworking people deserve opportunities to do better for their families. Hopefully the Elmore County Commission agrees.

Open letter to the people of Hammett April 15, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, approval process, economic benefits, Elmore County, Greenfield nuclear development, rural nuclear, Water policy.
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We recently sent this letter to the people of Hammett, as they are the closest town to our power plant.

April 7, 2009

Dear Hammett resident,

As you know, my company, Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., is proposing to build a nuclear power plant near your town. If the Elmore County Commission approves our rezone request April 22, it will mean some changes for all of Elmore County and Hammett. There has been some concern about how a nuclear plant will affect the rural lifestyle of Elmore County so I want to explain some things to you in this letter about my company’s intentions and goals.

Nuclear plants may seem large, but they produce lots of power in a relatively small area. To generate the same amount of power, for example, a wind farm would need to cover about 100 times the area of a nuclear plant with 40-story-tall turbines and thousands of miles of access roads (and only produce electricity less than 20 percent of the time, compared to 92 for nuclear). Our plant will emit no odors, dust or noise, be well-landscaped and have a low profile, with none of those large cooling towers.

I know people are concerned about water. Any water our plant uses will have to come from existing water rights, whose holders willingly provide us with water, with fair compensation. Old-style nuclear plants consume up to 30 million of gallons a day, but our plant will use a hybrid cooling system, using heat sinks and fans to cool water. When water is scarce, a hybrid plant can throttle back its consumption greatly, spending an extra one-half to 1.5 percent of its power output to cool itself. If nuclear plants are to be possible in dry places, new approaches will have to be used.

What does a power plant mean for Hammett residents? There will be growing pains as the plant is built, but it will last 60 or more years, providing high paying job opportunities for young people to remain in the community. If you earn your living in the local economy, the plant will bring business opportunities. If your livelihood is tied to the regional or national economies, you will see expanded opportunities from low power costs. For example, Idaho farmers can’t compete without low cost electricity.

We are looking to acquire rights up to 10 million gallons a day but our hybrid cooling system will keep our net consumption of water between 100,000 and 1 million gallons a day (about as much as 140 acres of irrigated land). We are looking at the possibility of renting water – since we won’t actually have to consume much water, we can use it for cooling and return it to farmers. The warmer water could potentially extend the growing season up to two weeks each direction and give farmers another source of income. Winter greenhouses would be another beneficiary of abundant hot water.

Low-cost power built on coal and hydro sustains Idaho’s agricultural industry, but coal is on the way out and hydro is maxed out. To maintain current farming, and to bring more idle ground into production, we need low-cost power. Now only nuclear can provide that same low cost power. As a public company, Idahoans hold the majority of our stock. We are literally vested in Idaho and we want to be good neighbors.

Several people have asked me how I would feel if a nuclear power plant was proposed next to my home. If I were someone who had devoted their life to a place, living and working and raising a family there, I would understandably be concerned at the changes the plant would bring to a place I had known all my life. I might even oppose the plant if it were close enough to be prominently seen as an industrial facility or was noisy or emitted an odor, but this plant won’t do any of that. At the very least, I would want to know what the developer would do to ensure the plant would be a good neighbor, pay its fair share and give back to the community. Any large construction project will create some inconvenience on a community and any good developer will fairly compensate the people who live there, and then some.

We are proposing the following if our plant is built. These are standard things that good companies should do during construction, and to give back to the community:

  • A committee to oversee service needs. This committee would be a partnership of local officials, neighbors and plant representatives. It would examine demands that construction would place on fire, schools, housing, roads, administration, etc., and make recommendations for meeting those needs, including what compensation the plant would need to make to keep services well-funded.
  • Direct infrastructure funding. Nuclear plants typically pay for fire stations, vehicles, equipment, road improvements, etc., necessary to serve the plant and benefit the community.
  • Payment of local property taxes. This could involve paying money directly to the county to reduce the bill for all taxpayers, or focusing tax relief on the neighbors most closely affected. Building the plant will put thousands to work but will also burden residents somewhat in the short-run. These payments would be intended to compensate people for any potential disruption to their lives.
  • Local scholarships. Elmore County would receive scholarships to study sciences at colleges of their choice. We hope these promising young people would come back to Elmore County and maybe even work at our plant. But our main incentive would be to fulfill the responsibility of technology industries to help the next generation of engineers and scientists.
  • Job training. Most jobs at a nuclear plant don’t require a college degree, but they require specialized training. We propose to pay the full costs of Elmore County residents who earn training certification, or college degrees, and who commit to work at our plant.
  • A community center. County residents would need to discuss where this could be constructed. I think Hammett could be a good location if people there want it. This would be a place for neighborhood meetings, youth programs, training and local government meetings. For security reasons, access to nuclear plants is highly restricted, so this could be a place where neighbors could meet with plant representatives to discuss problems and opportunities.

America currently has 104 nuclear reactors, most of them in rural areas, where they are quiet, clean and compact. American nuclear plants bring jobs, greater prosperity and preserve the rural way of life. For example, In 2005 – after nearly 50 years of commercial nuclear power – a Bisconti poll found 83 percent living close to nuclear plants favor nuclear energy. The survey only questioned residents within 10 miles of an operating nuclear plant also found that 85 percent give the nearest nuclear power plant a “high” safety rating, and that 88 percent are confident that the company operating the power plant can do so safely.

Thank you for your time and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, 939-9311 or info@aehipower.com. We look forward to seeing you at the County Commission meeting on Wednesday, April 22, at 6 p.m. in the Mountain Home Junior High School auditorium. If any of you are interested in learning more about jobs at the plant, we will be taking letters of interest and resumes. You can also see our site at http://www.alternateenergyholdings.com or http://www.cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com.

Don Gillispie

CEO