Letter to the Editor

AEHI continues to tout benefits of its proposal

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dear editor:

It's surprising how things turn out sometimes, when you receive validation for things months afterwards.

That's the feeling we got after the June 15 Elmore County Commission. During deliberations, Commissioner Connie Cruser hit the nail on the head, comparing the current discussion to the debate of 40 years ago surrounding the Hells Canyon Dam complex, Idaho's largest power plant at nearly 400 megawatts.

"The very same questions were discussed back then: water and farmland and infrastructure," Cruser said. "It was an important decision then and I'm glad they made the right decision because we've had a lot of years of electricity. This is an important decision not just for Elmore County, but the state and region."

Cruser's comments are prescient, because we are proposing the first large base load power plant in Idaho in 40 years (Idaho Power plans a small base load plant, the 300 mw Langley Gulch gas-fired plant near Payette). Idaho currently has about 800 mw of generating capacity in state, assuming sufficient water for hydro power. A plant of the size we are considering will create 1,600 mw, enough for all homes in Idaho three times over.

Commissioners also noted their comprehensive plan, however well intentioned, did not foresee an ambitious and economically significant proposal such as ours, so they unanimously asked their Planning and Zoning Commission to review the plan. Our proposal serves the comprehensive plan's aspirations because our development would provide steady, well-paying jobs; will greatly improve the local tax base, won't threaten the rural way of life; and we have addressed concerns about possible future misuse of the land. The county's designated industrial location, Simco Road, has no water or infrastructure and, as the Mountain Home News points out, its location would economically benefit Boise and Mountain Home most while doing little if anything for the other county towns like Hammett and Glenns Ferry. We also believe restricting industrial uses to Simco Road hurts economic opportunities in Hammett and Glenns Ferry.

We understand the concerns of a few Hammett-area farmers. However, nuclear plants are excellent neighbors, regularly located in rural areas where farming continues right up to their property line. Because nuclear plants emit no smoke, noise, dust or odors, wildlife sanctuaries frequently surround them. Indeed, because the land around them must remain free of development, nuclear plants are a good way to protect the farmland and wildlife in their vicinity from development.

Of the 1,300 acres proposed in our rezone, about 200 would be for the actual plant and the remaining land would consist of ponds and cultivated fields. 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).

That's a significant benefit to farmers. Elmore County farms have for decades worked fine next to an extremely intensive heavy-industrial use: Mountain Home Air Force Base. Safe to say, MHAFB would have a hard time fitting in the Simco Road location.

Our community organizing efforts in Hammett and Glenns Ferry found people desperate for stable, well-paying jobs and these towns have much higher-than-average poverty rates. Our plant would employ 500 and create 5,000 during construction; $558 million in local payroll and labor income; and $205 million in local ripple payroll income. The plant would also create an additional 1,754 full-time support jobs and massive improvements in schools, police, fire and other infrastructure funding.

Our most vocal critics claim the jobs won't appear because they will be successful in their attempts to stop us from developing our plant. Anti-nuclear groups employ similar tactics when they say nuclear power must end because there is no solution to spent fuel storage, then they turn around and fight against any proposed solution, be it reprocessing or underground storage. We want to be part of the solution for jobs, energy supply and a clean environment.

Any sort of significant project will impose burdens and we have suggested ways to address them: paying money directly to the county to reduce property taxes; job training; a community center; scholarships; direct infrastructure funding; and a committee to oversee service needs (for details, see Don Gillispie's April 15 blog entry at www. cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com).

We see a bright future for Elmore County, it is a future of economic security and low-cost energy, with a nuclear plant quietly, cleanly and dependably powering its farms, homes and businesses. We hope the Elmore County Commission shares this vision.

Jennifer Ransom

Senior Vice President, AEHI