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A Seat in the House

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A Seat in the House

Alternative energy gets an Idaho focus

I have been asked several times over the summer, “How is it going down in Boise?”  In response, I remind those who have asked that Idaho has a part-time legislature with many legislators working at regular jobs when not engaged in legislative activity and that we actually adjourned the 2009 session on May 8 of this year; the second longest session in Idaho’s history. The next legislative session will convene in Boise on January 11, 2010.

Therefore the legislature is now in the interim between sessions; however this does not mean that we are not involved in legislative matters. During the interim legislators are responding to constituent concerns, attending meetings that are relative to their legislative responsibilities and for some legislators, participating in one or more legislative interim committees.

Senator Curt McKenzie of Boise and I co-Chair one of these committees, i.e., the Energy, Environment and Technology Interim Committee.

Idaho has a history of low electric energy rates that have been beneficial to Idaho citizens and business development in the state. Our low energy rates have been an important contributor to the quality of life in our state.

Idaho is getting close to reaching capacity on our energy supply and needs to look closely at all alternative energy resources.  We will not be able to rely on hydropower to the degree we have in the past, although it will continue to be a resource option. As a result, other conventional methods of electrical generation including nuclear, gas, and coal need to be on the list of options to consider. However, recognizing that there are cost, political and environmental issues associated with these conventional generation resources, the Idaho legislature has recognized that these resources may not be available in the right time frame to meet our needs and has prioritized acquisition of energy resources based on cost, political and environmental acceptance. As a result, renewable energy resources are awarded the highest priority in the Idaho Energy Plan for development.

The Interim Committee on Energy, Environment and Technology has the responsibility of following energy issues and reviewing proposed energy legislation that surfaces during the interim between sessions to assist the legislature during the regular session to address energy issues that need to be addressed.

The committee will be holding its first meeting of this interim period on September 1 and 2. Three agenda items are of particular significance: 

1) Currently there is a large amount of interest by various groups in using biomass, including woody biomass, for electricity and fuel production in Idaho. At the same time it appears that the communication among these groups and various state agencies charged with assisting these groups is fragmented and leads to confusion in terms of what is actually being accomplished in terms of development of biomass resources. The interim committee has invited members of these entities to attend the September meeting in an attempt to a) increase the communication and collaboration of the groups; b) assist the state agencies to understand their roles and to focus their efforts together and appropriately and c) raise the understanding of the legislature of what the possibilities are for this renewable energy resource development.

2) There is a legislative proposal being developed that would provide qualified Idaho taxpayers with a business and residential energy tax credit for development and/or use of a renewable resource. The proponent of the legislation will be presenting a draft of the proposed legislation to the committee for discussion during the meeting.

3) LS Power is a new player in Idaho’s energy interests.  The company is proposing a 500-mile, 500 KV electric transmission project from southern Idaho to Las Vegas to move renewable energy from generation sites to western energy markets. A representative of the company will be providing information on this and other LS transmission projects to the committee.

The Interim Energy, Environment and Technology committee will meet at least twice and possibly three times prior to the legislature going into session next January in its effort to keep up to date on energy issues affecting Idaho. 

Thanks for reading and as always please contact me with issues of concern to you.  My home phone is (208) 265-0123 and my mailing address during this interim period is P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho 83825.

George

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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