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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just How Unproductive Was Congress In 2011

Most of us have had the feeling Congress hasn't done much this year but bicker and not get much done.  Tobin Grant has quantified their work below...

Tobin Grant, an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University from a piece on NPR..Weekend Edition.
"Grant developed an index to measure Congress' productivity. After looking at the numbers, he says this Congress is on pace to be the least productive since the '80s — not the 1980s, but the 1880s.
Grant says he'd consider very few of the 80 bills signed into law so far this session to be major legislation.
Multiple bills continue funding that had already been ongoing. Others, he says, include "taking a bold stance in favor of 9/11 heroes and autism" with the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act and the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act. Congress also passed 10 resolutions naming post offices.
Now, this is the first of a two-year Congress, and the first year is always less productive. This one, though, has been especially unproductive.
In 2011, Congress did pass the Deficit Reduction Act, three free-trade bills and a patent-reform measure. However, much of its time was spent racing against those countdown clocks, passing short-term extensions to keep the government open for business and fighting right up to the brink over matters that in the past have been routine."


Friday, December 30, 2011

Idaho Power Not Happy May Pull Plug On Hoku Solar Plant

by David R. Frazier

The Hoku solar panel plant struggling to get itself up and running in Pocatello can’t even pay its agreed upon electric bill to Idaho Power, it was revealed in a filing before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission Thursday.

The Chinese backed company has been the beneficiary of all kinds of public largess including local urban renewal funds (property taxes diverted from city, county, and schools), assorted state energy and economic development funds as well as Federal funds. Now they want extra time to pay their power bill, citing “cash flow” problems.
The company’s stock has plummeted to less than 1/4 its value earlier this year and is in danger of being delisted on the stock exchange where the current price is less than 60 cents a share.
The would-be polysilicon maker said losing power would delay the Pocatello plant’s commissioning and expose infrastructure to freezing as winter sets in. Southeastern Idaho’s hopes that Hoku’s $390 million plant will eventually add hundreds of green-energy jobs to the local economy have been shaken by uncertainty over whether the project will survive.
“If service is terminated, these high value systems may freeze, causing irreparable and material damage to Hoku’s plant assets,” the company’s lawyers told utility regulators in their complaint. “Any damage would need to be repaired, at additional cost, prior to continuing with the commissioning and operation of the plant.”
This failure to pay an existing Idaho utility a contractually agreed amount does little to help the local economy and could be a harbinger of the future for energy schemes dependent on government subsidies. We GROWTHOPHOBES have long welcomed corporations and individuals to our state as long as they can afford to pay the same taxes the rest of us pay and offer decent wages for the jobs they may create. If not, please visit one of the states competing against us.

Kuna Mayor Elect and "Cold Day In Hell"

The Caldwell Guardian reported in an earlier post last week the story of Kuna Mayor Elect Greg Nelson owing the city of Kuna $36,000.  In the Idaho Statesman today there is more about this dust-up between Mr. Nelson and Kuna.  Here's the link:

Reporter for the Statesman, Cynthia Sewell did a great job of getting the facts in this matter for readers of her paper.  She has connected all the dots and even has a great quote from Mr. Nelson:

"It will be a cold day in hell before I pay the city $36,000."

We can only wonder if the election results would have been different had this all come out during the mayoral campaign in Kuna.  The Guardian supports the democratic process where things get loud and noisy with voters making informed decisions.

Editor Note:  Mr. Hasson is leaving the city of Kuna to take a City Manager position in La Pine, Oregon.  He will be leaving Kuna as of Feb. 1, 2012, meanwhile the Mayor will get his wish for Mr. Hasson to leave.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Caldwell and Nampa Get New Council Members

Caldwell will be swearing in incumbent council members Jim Blacker and Shannon Ozuna along with newly minted Councilman-elect David Clark Tuesday Jan. 3rd at 7:00 PM.  This is the first item on the New Business Agenda.

Nampa reader Bob G. sent me this item:

Tuesday the 3rd of Jan. is the first meeting that Bob Henry will be on the city council . I plan to be there and hope many others will attend this and future meetings to support him and Steve Kren.  Perhaps we can all look forward to some lively debates on issues with a philosophically split Nampa City Council.

 I believe the meeting starts at 6:30 pm.


Ca. To Require Booster Seats 7yrs And Under

We learned today in the Wall Street Journal, starting January 1, 2012 all children under the age of seven years of age or under 4 feet 9 inches in height will have to be latched into a booster seat with all six points attached to the seat and seat belt system.  The fine will be $425 and a 1 point moving violation for the driver for non-compliance.

WSJ reported in the front page story 6 year old kids are putting up a real fuss over this new law.  Especially the one's that recently turned six.  It is taking all the cajoling and bribery mom and dad can muster to get their kids back into these very confining seats.

California is usually a few years ahead of the curve on social change and things like this.  We can only wonder how long before the insurance industry forces the issue in the Idaho Legislature.  It will be a boon to folks selling these seats.  Each kid will have to get one or more to comply with this new California law.

The Guardian is wondering if they came up with this law after visiting Disneyland.  Seat-belted rides have a sign where children have to be at or higher than the bottom of a sign posting height requirements for these types of rides.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Things You Should Check

First off The Guardian is not seeing much out there to talk about.  That said I would like to remind everyone about a few things you might not give much thought to until they fail.

First on the list are smoke and carbon monoxide detector battery back up and testing them to make sure they actually still work. Smoke detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material and need to be disposed of properly.

Second, Washing machine hoses.  These things fail all the time according to insurance company data and can flood your home with water in short order.  Water is the biggest enemy of homeowners.  These hoses should be inspected often and replaced ever few years. They don't leak, they burst when they fail, usually at the connector part of the hose.  Turn off the valves when you leave your home for an extended period of time.

Third, review your homeowners insurance policy.  Values have decreased and you might be able to save a buck or two with a coverage review.  A thing called a "deck sheet" is the meat and potatoes of your insurance coverage for your home as well as autos.
You may want to consider dropping collision coverage on an older car with not a lot of dollar value.  Rule of thumb on vehicles is damage over 60% is considered a total.

That is my list and you may have others to add to this.  It is a slow time of year for any news.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year To All

I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone for reading, contributing and commenting Caldwell Guardian articles over this past year.  Your readership and comments are helpful in keeping a stimulating discussion going with local issues of the day.

The year in front of us will no doubt have plenty of issues for readers.  I get about 2500-3500 hits on my blog each month.  I have no ideal of who you all are as comments and hits remain anonymous except for the cities where readers live and their browser type, unless readers wish to add their name and other data to a comment.

Warm regards to all,


Friday, December 23, 2011

Namp Sued Again, Plaintiff's Seeking Class Action Over Stormwater Issue

BOISE GUARDIAN, David R. Frazier reports the following:

Yet another lawsuit has bee filed against the City of Nampa over the stormwater "fee" levied against property owners.

If class acion is granted, Nampa could have every property owner in the city seeking refunds for a stormwater utility fee that many claim is an illegal tax.

A class-action complaint filed Wednesday seeks to have Nampa's $3 per month-per resident stormwater fee and ordinance declared invalid and all the fees collected under the program refunded.  The plaintiffs are:  "Ronald W. Van Auker, JBR LLC; RVRV LLC; Hogan LLC; Deer 1 LLP; Par 3; Idaho Industrial Development and all other similarly situated." Commercial properties are charged based on square footage.

Republic Storage filed a similar complaint against the city on December 14. THE GUARDIAN warned of potential class action at that time.

The Idaho Supreme Court ruled in November the City of Lewiston's stormwater fee was illegal because the state has not authorized cities to collect a stormwater tax.  The plaintiff's attorney E. Don Copple and Heather Cunningham of Davidson, Copple. Copple & Copple say Nampa's stormwater ordinance and fee is nearly identical to Lewiston's and should also be declared  illegal.

Nampa's legal team is a private firm that probably advised the city regarding the ordinance that created the fee.

Read more here:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mayor Elect of Kuna Billed $36k For Water/Sewer Hookups

THE GUARDIAN read with interest a story in the Idaho Statesman about Mayor Elect Greg Nelson's plans for the fair City of Kuna.  Here's a link to the Statesman story in yesterdays paper, Link:
New Mayor wants to make peace . 

Mayor Elect Nelson came across as someone who is a "can't we all just get along" kind of a guy with everyone and every thing save the Kuna Planning and Zoning folks.  All the love from Mayor Elect Nelson was not to be regarding Kuna's Planning and Zoning Director, Steven Hasson.

The animosity Nelson expressed toward Kuna's Director of Planning and Zoning seemed out of character.  THE GUARDIAN filed a public records request and the short version of all this is:  Mr. Nelson is alleged to have not paid $36K for water and sewer hook-up fees for the Creekside Lounge and Peregrine Steaks and Spirits Restaurant built in 2005/06.

Mr. Nelson received notification of  no record of payment for water and sewer hook-up fees for the total amount assigned to the project from Mr. Hasson in March of this year.

Lack of payment/verification was caught as part of an Idaho Department of Quality (IDEQ) audit for water and sewer fees cities turn in to DEQ.

  Mr. Hasson and his staff turned up no record of payment for a total of 10 EDU's (equivalent domestic units of water and sewer usage) attached to Mr. Nelson's project at the time building permits were issued.  Nor could Kuna City Officials find any record Mr. Nelson's project was exempted from the fees.

 Mr. Hasson sent Mayor Elect Nelson a billing letter for $36,000.00 owed to the City of Kuna (ie. Taxpayers). Mr. Hasson has asked for any reasonable record the fees had been paid by Mr. Nelson to help clear up this matter.

It will be interesting to see how all this unfolds.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nampa Has No Contract With White-Peterson

THE GUARDIAN filed a public records request with the City of Nampa regrading legal fees paid the White-Peterson Law Offices of Nampa.  Also, No formal contract exists between Nampa and W-P, they are "appointed" by Mayor Dale and confirmed by the Nampa City Council.

A records request for the last three years was filed and here is what we learned.

Legal fees for FY:  08/09 were $423,820.32

                                09/10 were $519,517.26

                                10/11 to date are $679,733.17

A comment in the post below piqued the interest in this subject and the above are the totals I received Nampa.  Also of note the City of Nampa budgets $1 Million each year for legal fees.  This came from budget numbers in the IPT legal advertisements.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Clouds Gather Over Nampa Stormwater Utility Fees

The following is a summary of a court action filed against the City of Nampa over their Stormwater Utility Fees:

Republic Storage of Nampa (aka Twin Islands LLC) is seeking declaratory or injunctive relief from "Nampa Storm Water Utility" fees imposed by Ordinance 3928.  Republic is asserting the storm water fee is a tax implemented without Constitutional, State Legislative, or police power to enact. Further, Republic is citing this tax/fee as a violation of the Idaho Constitution Art. 7 sec. 5 as the tax/fee amounts to a non uniform tax on all property.  Also claimed there is no discernible service connected with the Storm Water Utility fees.

The Plaintiff, Republic Storage is seeking injunctive relief to preclude any further collections of the Storm Water Utility fees pending  litigation challenging the validity of Nampa Storm Water Utility fees.

David R. Frazier of the Boise Guardian reports there is a pending Class Action Lawsuit representing 80,000 people over the Storm Water Ordinance put together by Mayor Dale, City Councilors and his legal team.

This means Happy Holidays for the law firm representing Nampa.  They got paid for the ordinance work and now they will have two legal challenges over Storm Water fees to further line their pockets with Nampa taxpayer dollars. 

Caldwell to Pay $47K Above Low Bid For Misdemeanor Prosecutions

THE GUARDIAN learned via a public records request Caldwell intends to pay $47K more to the firm of Hamilton Michaelson Hilty, the current city attorney v. the offer extended by Canyon County Prosecutor, Brian Taylor.  The decision to go with the high bid was made in Executive Session by the Caldwell City Council.  Yesterday we noted the approval of HMH as the firm that will be doing city misdemeanor prosecutions.  It is listed as item #7 on the "Consent Calendar" for the upcoming City Council meeting.

There will be no further discussion nor any debate about the difference in cost for this service to Caldwell taxpayer's.  A motion will be made, seconded and passed.  The troubling part of all this is the fiduciary responsibility to Caldwell taxpayers and $47k difference for this service.

Mind you there will be the same numbers of misdemeanor prosecutions no matter who does the job. Felonies all go to the County Prosecutor no matter what the circumstances.  THE GUARDIAN sent emails to Mayor Nancolas, and two City Councilors voicing concerns about the lack of negotiation of costs for taxpayers.  It is OK to stay with HMH but why haven't they said the business is theirs to lose and can they meet the price proffered by Canyon County Prosecutor, Brian Taylor and save taxpayers $47K in these difficult times.

Editor note:  City of Caldwell accepted a bid of $256K from HMH on December 19th.  HMH revised their bid $41k lower than their original RFQ of $296K.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Social Security and Medicare Aren't Entitlements

 Politicos in Washington D.C. keep telling citizens Social Security and Medicare are "entitlements" and if they keep repeating this lie often enough people might start to believe it.

Fact is these are "EARNED BENEFITS".  Every working person who collects Soc. Security and Medicare had money deducted from their pay over their entire working careers.  The amount each person collects is based on how much they paid into the system.  Medicare was also deduced from each persons pay and those on Medicare pay about $100/month for straight Medicare Part B and more if they opt for an Advantage Plan with a private insurance company.

All the people now receiving their earned benefits had no choice in the matter of enrollment for these programs during their working years.  I was more than a little shocked to see how much was deducted from my pay when I got my first job.  I got $1/hour which was the minimum wage back in 1963 and was dismayed at how little was left after deductions.  I got past all that in time and accepted it as something that would  be there if I lived long enough to actually retire.

Medicare was first approved in the Kennedy Administration back in the early 1960's. The running joke at the time was if it didn't pass muster with Congress everyone needed to try and stay young.  Older people before Medicare either had the cash to pay for medical care or they simply died from neglect.

Most people end up paying Social Security and Medicare over what usually is a 40+ year working career.  When I hear Congress and the President calling Social Security and Medicare "entitlements" it really strikes me as an outright lie to people who have paid into these two "earned benefit" programs.  The root of the problem is the fat cats in Congress spent the money and are now trying to weasel out of the loans made to the government via these two non-optional programs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cecil and Wayne, More In Common Than You Think

We read with interest this morning, the regular Monday Opinion piece by Wayne Hoffman to day.  We also caught the November 17th, 2011 edition of Dialogue on IPTV.  It was interesting to note just how much former Gov. Cecil Andrus and Mr. Hoffman have in common.

Gov. Andrus was talking about when Hewlett Packard came to Boisenin the 1960's looking for a place to expand their operations.  Gov. Andrus was asked point blank what he was willing to do to sweeten the deal for HP.  Gov. Andrus didn't bat an eye in his response... NOTHING!  He said they would help expedite the permitting process and welcome HP to town but to do more would set the stage for future handouts for others wishing to locate in Idaho.  He said this point blank to David Packard.  If they got a subsidy from Idaho Taxpayers then others would want the same and HP would help pay for any government funds going to subsidize companies locating in Idaho.

Mr. Hoffman in his Op-Ed piece in the Idaho Press Tribune today is echoing the same philosophy on energy subsidies.  Wind projects all over the state get huge subsidies from taxpayers, the project is not subject to the proper levels of property taxes, receive large subsidies from the federal government for "being green".  The reality is they kill large numbers of birds, endangered bats, and eagles along with other avian life.  In addition they create a fair amount of visual blight.  There are so many of them now in Idaho they nearly carry the entire electrical loading at the minimum demand on the system.

We have yet another heavily subsidized project at the Ada County Land Fill where Dynamis Energy of Idaho has struck a deal with Idaho Power to charge IP nearly three times to going rates for electricity for 18 hours a day of power generation per the IPUC application and agreements.  Not only can this project not stand on it's own but it will receive additional subsidies from the Federal Government at taxpayer expense.

FERC (federal energy regulatory commission) has recently entered the fray forcing power companies to buy wind power at inflated prices when all the waterways are brimming with water.  Bonneville Power and it would be reasoned Idaho Power have no control over co-generation projects with the ability to use them as a supplemental source when needed.

Mr. Hoffman's position like Gov. Andrus before him is this stuff should stand on its own merits and not sink or swim via State and Federal hand outs.

here's the IPT LINK

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wind Power Subsidy and FERC Will Cost Rate Payers

We learn today Wind Power is not a backup but a primary energy supply when it comes to paying the piper for power.  Wind generator owners won a dispute with with Bonneville Power Administration yesterday via the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Wind generators supplying power to Bonneville Power objected to being told to shut down when the Columbia River system is brimming with abundant water supplies and had more power than the grid could manage or export. Between mid-May and June there is more hydro-electric power available and the wind power simply is not needed nor is there any market for it.

The FERC ruling yesterday was based on the fact they lost government incentives when windmills were shut down because subsidies to this industry are based on actual power output.  Actions by FERC yesterday have set the stage for wind farms to go back to BPA and other power companies and collect back compensation.

In short, it is the rate payers of all the various power companies who will be on the line to pay inflated prices for power from alternative sources even when they aren't needed.  These secondary sources have become the tail wagging the big dog power companies.  Standby for federally mandated increases in power rates courtesy of FERC.

Here's a LINK to the Statesman AP story

Another LINK to Rocky Barker of the Statesman on this subject

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Idaho Power Gets 4% Rate Increase Jan. 1st

Settlement would increase Idaho Power rates by 4 percent
Rate case hearings set in American Falls, Gooding and Boise

Parties to an Idaho Power Company rate case have reached a settlement that, if approved, would increase rates an average 4 percent, down from the nearly 10 percent requested by the company when it filed its application June 1. 

The proposed settlement must be approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which has scheduled public hearings in American Falls on Nov. 3, in Gooding on Nov. 9 and in Boise on Dec. 5. 

The proposed settlement would allow Idaho Power an annual revenue requirement increase of $34 million. The utility originally sought $83 million, or an average overall rate increase of 9.9 percent. 

Included in the proposed average 4 percent increase is an increase in the monthly service charge from $4 to $5 per month.  The new rates, if approved, would become effective Jan. 1.  The parties are proposing a 7.86 percent rate of return. The company sought 8.17 percent. 

Parties signing the settlement include commission staff, the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association, the Industrial Customers of Idaho Power, the Department of Energy, Micron Technology, the Idaho Conservation League, the Snake River Alliance, the Northwest Energy Coalition and Hoku Materials. The Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho, which represents customers on low- and fixed-incomes, participated in the settlement discussions but not sign largely because Idaho Power has not agreed to increase its funding for a low-income weatherization program.  

The signing parties agreed to defer and amortize over four years a nearly $300,000 expense for a turbine inspection. They also propose to defer $436,000 for a Light Detection and Ranging survey and amortize that over 10 years. That deferral and amortization mitigate the size of rate increases for customers. 

Some issues were not resolved and will be argued during the Dec. 5 technical hearing while others will be handled separately in other cases. 

Issues to be argued during the technical hearing include the amount of funding that Idaho Power should provide for a low-income weatherization program; the surcharge level for the Energy Efficiency Rider (now set at 4.75 percent of billed rates) and the method used to calculate facilities charges for large commercial and industrial customers. 

The issues to be handled separately include the amount paid by parties requesting a line extension and whether the annual pilot Fixed Cost Adjustment (FCA) mechanism should be made permanent. 

The commission will conduct three public hearings, giving customers an opportunity to testify regarding the proposed settlement. Those hearings will be:

·       Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Power County Courthouse Annex, 500 Pocatello Ave., in American Falls.
·       Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Gooding County Planning and Zoning Building, 145 Seventh Ave. East in Gooding. 
·       Monday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. at the commission hearing room, 472 W. Washington St. in Boise. 

The technical hearing will also be Dec. 5 beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the commission hearing room. 

The commission cannot, by state law, arbitrarily refuse to consider utility rate increase requests without first considering the evidence presented by the utility, intervening parties and customers. The burden of proof is on the utility to justify the expenses it seeks to recover through rates as 1) necessary to serve customers and 2) prudently incurred.  The commission may accept, reject or modify the company’s request.  All commission decisions can be appealed to the state Supreme Court by the utility, intervenors or customers. 

Continued growth in demand for electricity, aging infrastructure and higher compliance and reliability requirements are the driving factors behind the rate increase request, according to the company’s application.    

Idaho Power claims it has made significant investment in pollution control equipment in four units and upgraded a turbine in one unit of the Jim Bridger power plant, a coal-fired facility in southwest Wyoming.  The company plans additional investment at its Valmy coal plant in Nevada this year. Idaho Power also completed construction of a new 500-kilovot Hemingway transmission station and the associated Hemingway to Bowmont 230-kV transmission line at a total cost of $54 million.  The company also completed construction of the Long Valley Operations Center in Lake Ford to replace the existing McCall Operations Center. 

The company’s application further states that the cost of building materials has increased dramatically since the last time the company was granted a general rate increase in 2009.  In that two-year period, the company claims aluminum costs have increased 59 percent; copper, 104 percent and standard plate steel, 83 percent. 

To mitigate the size of the increase, Idaho Power says it is not including nearly $32 million in power supply expenses and also is not asking for construction expenses related to the Hells Canyon relicensing project.  While not collecting the expenses now will impact cash flow, it will not affect the company’s earnings or perception of the company’s financial health in the markets, according to Greg Said, vice president for regulatory affairs. 

Idaho Power serves nearly 500,000 customers in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. 

Customers can track the case on the commission’s Web site,, where the company’s application, including testimony from company officials and intervening parties as well as customer comments are posted. Click on the electric icon, then on “Open Electric Cases,” and scroll down to Case No. IPC-E-11-08. 


Monday, December 5, 2011

AARP Urges PUC To Nix Idaho Power Rate Hike

Last Public Hearing on Rate Hike Tonight – If Approved Will Mean $90 Million in Hikes for Idahoans as Many Struggle to Pay for the Basics
BOISE, Idaho – Idaho Power reported record earnings last quarter, raking in roughly $40 million more than the prior quarter.  But that hasn’t stopped the state’s largest utility company from seeking to hit consumers with even higher energy bills – to the tune of $83 million in rate hikes plus $6 million more in customer service charge increases.  AARP Idaho says enough is enough and is urging the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to deny the rate hike request.
Tonight will be the last chance for the public to make their voices heard before PUC as the commission wraps up public hearings on the rate hike request.  The final public hearing will be held in Boise at 7pm in the PUC building, 472 W. Washington St. in Boise, in the commission hearing room.  AARP is encouraging Idaho Power customers to make their voices heard in opposition to the rate hike.  
“These rate hikes are a bad idea in a good economy, in today’s economy they are a horrible idea that will wreak havoc on some households already struggling to get by.  Idaho Power sure isn’t struggling, so why should consumers be forced to?” said Lynn Young, a member of AARP Idaho’s Executive Council.  “Older Idahoans already have to strike a delicate balance between affording their utility bills and paying for the basics like health care, rising prescription drug, grocery and gas costs – AARP stands in strong opposition to this rate hike.”
The Idaho Power rate hike would send most residential consumers’ bills skyrocketing by nearly 9%, in addition to a $1 a month increase in customer’s service change (bringing in an additional roughly $500,000 a month to the company – or $6 million a year).  A non-binding settlement agreement between the company and the interveners (none representing residential consumers) in the rate hike case, currently before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC), still calls for $34 million in rate hikes, hitting the typical residential consumer with a 4.19% higher monthly energy bill.
“This rate hike request and the non-binding, closed door deal cut by those who  had the money to be at the table, further lays out a clear need for Idaho to create a utility consumer advocate office to make sure people have their voice and views heard,” added Young.  “At a time when so many of the state’s older residents are having trouble paying their current utility bills, to hit them with a hike in their utility bills is unthinkable.”
Idaho is the only state in the West lacking a utility consumer advocate office to represent residential consumers and small businesses such as farms in rate cases and other regulatory issues before the PUC and the courts.  AARP stands in strong support of the creation of an advocate office and is currently urging its inclusion in Idaho’s draft Energy Plan which is being updated. 
According to an AARP survey released earlier this year, over 40% of Idahoans 50 and older reported already having difficulty affording their utility bills.  In many cases, older consumers are already forced to make hard choices between turning up the thermostat and filling a prescription – higher utility bills could see more of the state’s elderly struggling to afford the basics.
“All of Idaho’s major utility companies are back at the trough this year seeking to hike customer’s utility bills at a time when most can least afford it,” added Young.  “The most important voice in the debate over more utility rate hikes in Idaho should be the public’s but too often they are left out of the equation or underrepresented; we’re working to help them raise that voice.”

Here's a link to respond the IPUC

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ada Landfill Energy Project Will Burn "Tyres"

We learn from a English publication the marvels of the TRASH TO ENERGY project  at the Ada County Landfill "tyres" will be a fuel stock for this project. Dynamis Energy, Ada County and Idaho Power will present their case to the IPUC in the near term via case #IPC-E-11-25.

U.S: Gasification comes to Idaho

Idaho based waste gasification specialist, Waste Dynamis Energy is to design, build and operate a $60 million facility to convert MSW and waste tyres into electricity at Ada County's Hidden Hollow Landfill in Idaho.
According to the company, the agreement will see landfill property leased from the county for $1 a year for 20 years and will build a gasification plant capable of disposing of 250 tons (227 tonnes) of municipal waste, tyres and other types of solid waste per day.  

We can only wonder about the "variances" and other schemes around clean air emissions Idaho DEQ will entertain in the name of progress.  Between controlled burns, naturally occurring wildfires and just plain old pollution from vehicles and stationary sources in the valley how much worse the air quality will suffer in this valley when this project comes on line in 2014.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

US Will Be Net Fuel Exporter This Year

THE GUARDIAN learned via the Wall Street Journal today the USA will be a net fuel exporter this year for the first time in 62 years.  The US sent abroad 753.4 million barrels from gasoline to jet fuel and everything else you can burn for fuel while it imported 689.4 million barrels of fuel stocks.

The US is currently exporting 919,000 barrels of oil per day.  Gasoline and low sulfur diesel are the highest items for export customers.  The increases in supply are from North Dakota and Texas.  North Dakota is producing 424,000 barrels per day.  The US is expected to remain a net exporter throughout this decade.

Growing domestic output means refineries are producing much more than domestic demand can absorb hence sales to other countries like Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and others.  Export demand is boosting profits for Exxon-Mobil, Royal Dutch-Shell and refineries Valero Energy Corporation and Marathon Petroleum Corporation.

Here is the link to the Wall Street Journal article, you have to be a subscriber to read all of it,

Here's another link to SLATE and you can

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is Privatizing Liquor Sales Effective

The following is a guest opinion written by Elaine Hirsh, November 28, 2011:

It is not uncommon in the American liquor industry to hear phrases like "big brother" being thrown around in reference to state controlled liquor sales.  In states where liquor has been totally privatized, and when they can sell liquor.  However, opponents of privatized liquor cite a wide range of real and perceived consequences to the notion of removing state control from the liquor industry.

The argument over the legitimacy of private v. public liquor sales is nothing new; the argument between public/private sales is covered in every Masters Degree in Economics curriculum link .  Many American states and Canadian Provinces that have switched over to private liquor regulation and sales have actually felt the sting of complaints from within the industry.  Notably in 2006 when Connect Logistics, a liquor distributor, suffered some setbacks with retailers complaining they had empty shelves and were not receiving their stocks on time.  This resulted in legal action   in drastic changes in pricing regulations.

In the United States, most states still have some laws regarding which alcoholic beverages and containers can be sold and a majority specify spirits with a high alcohol content can only be sold in liquor stores and other specific venues.  In eighteen states liquor stores can only be legally owned and operated by the state government.

For example, Idaho law limits alcohol sales to 16% ABV.  Any beverages with more than 16% ABV must be sold in a state-run liquor store.  In Mississippi,  privately owned liquor stores must have a state contract.  In Minnesota, various cities have their own laws, some allowing totally privatized liquor sales and others only allowing city-owned stores to sell liquor.

According to and independent study, Pennsylvania Governor, Thomas Corbett announced the state would realize an estimated $1.5 billion if the state were to privatize liquor sales..  The article goes on to advocate for regulation due to alcohols negative societal effects but the numbers speak for themselves.  During a time when municipal governments are running huge deficits, privatizing liquor sales could provide the boost they need to dig themselves out of an ever deeper hole.

Roughly one fourth of the US population lives in states where the government controls or has an outright monopoly on liquor sales.  Manny critics suggest this is, in fact, taking a toll on both the economy and the small businessman in states like New Hampshire, where independence and personal freedom are highly valued.  

In states like Michigan where the government is holding a monopoly on the liquor market, liquor prices are usually higher due to lack of competition, licensing fees, and alcohol taxation.  States such as Wisconsin have privatized liquor sales and clearly demonstrated it's possible to have regulated (21+) alcohol sales without the state regulating the substance.  It is understandable the powers be would want to maintain control of the alcohol market but the call for independent alcohol sales is being made loud and clear all over the United States.  

Here are some links related to the above story:

for "master's degree in economics":">master's degree in economics">Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Misdemeanor Prosecutions, Caldwell Takes High Bid

THE GUARDIAN is always thinking about the costs to taxpayers for all manner of things done by government at the local level.  The costs for misdemeanor prosecutions came up and a public records request was made to the City of Caldwell for the costs of private legal services v. services from the local Canyon County Prosecutor.  THE GUARDIAN interviewed Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Taylor, Tuesday of this week about the costs.  Mr. Taylor indicated he made an offer of $250,000 to prosecute misdemeanor and infraction issue for the city of Caldwell per year regardless of what the numbers of prosecutions came to over the course of the contract.

A public records request was made to Caldwell City for the RFQ's submitted by Canyon County and the current private law firm of Hamilton, Michaelson, Hilty Law Office.  Bids were: $250K/year from Canyon County and $297K from HMH.   We then used historical data of 3292 prosecutions in the HMH RFQ to figure the costs of each prosecution effort.  Canyon County came in at $76/ prosecution effort and HMH came in at $90/prosecution.  The fair City of Caldwell chose the HMH prosecution services at a elevated cost of nearly 18.5% or $47,000.00 more.

We have known Mr. Taylor for a number of years and consider him to be a learned man of the law as well as a very efficient Prosecutor.  Why the City of Caldwell would not opt to save Caldwell Taxpayers $47K on these services is baffling to THE GUARDIAN.

Editor Note:  RFQ = Request for Quotation...  Felony prosecutions automatically go to the Canyon County Prosecutor unless they are conflicted out to another county.

Dynamis Project At Boise Landfill Equals Higher Idaho Power Rates

The following is a guest opinion by our friend Hubert Osborne.  It is important to note the amount paid to Dynamis by Idaho Power for electricity is over three times the spot market rate for electricity at $27/mwhr.  Also, the land fills in the area have a life of over 100 years.  Natural gas today is more than 25% cheaper than it was twenty years ago due to the new technology of getting it out of the ground.  Why are rate payers being asked by Idaho Power and Dynamis to fund a costly experiment?

On Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 8:05 AM, Hlclosborne  wrote:

Good morning Paul,
The energy agreement between Dynamis and Idaho Power which was reported in the Statesman yesterday and Press-Tribune this
morning presents us with both challenges and opportunity's.
A challenge because if not confronted agreement and all the repercussions will be saddled on the public for many years.
Not just here but nationally and internationally where Dynamis has made presentations.
An opportunity because delay, delay, delay and even defeat of their proposal would be good for everyone except Dynamis
Buried in the back of Case No. IPC-E-11-25 which can be downloaded from the IPUC site is a request for modified procedure
and I quote  " Idaho Power believes that a hearing is not necessary to consider the issues presented herein and respectfully requests that this application be processed
under Modified Procedure; i.e., by written submissions rather than by hearing. RP 201 et seq. If, however, the commission determines that
a technical hearing is required, the Company stands ready to prepare and present its testimony in such hearing."
I happen to think this is worth fighting and as Paul knows if sufficiently motivated I am willing to put up some bucks to get the best
representation available.
My questions to each of you are
1. Are you with me on this
2. Do you know a good attorney versed in PUC proceedings
3. Do any of you have access to the PUC members or staff to get an inside feel of how they will rule.
4. Any other comments as to how to fight this would be helpful

Here's the challenge we can all just take this laying down or we can get it together and take this thing on in the Courts before we hit the point of no return.  Paul

Monday, November 21, 2011

Geezer Group Talks Turkey Over Raising Rates

By David R. Frazier November 21, 2011

Taking advantage of the paucity of news during the holiday week, the old timers at ARRP have issued a press release aimed at the electricity and water providers who want more cash for their current.

With Thanksgiving just days away, AARP Idaho has released the hotly anticipated winners of this first annual Gem State Turkey  Award - and the winners are Idaho Power, Rocky Mountain Power and United Water.  The utility companies were cited for their attempts to press through a combined $122 million in rate hikes on Idaho consumers, as many , including the state's 50+ year old people struggle in a difficult economy.

"We couldn't find better recipients for the first annual Gem State Turkey Award - asking consumers to keep paying more in this economy is move worthy of recognition." said Jim Wordelman, State Director of AARP in Idaho.  "These  rate hike proposals are in real turkeys in this Thanksgiving, and AARP is  calling on the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to ensure they don't fly."

The Turkey Award "winners" - Idaho Power is looking to sock state consumers with $83MM in rate hikes, resulting in the average residential consumer's bill skyrocketing by nearly 9% in addition to a $1/month  increase in customer's service charge (bringing in an additional $500k to the company).   A non-binding settlement agreement between the company and the interevenues (none representing residential consumers) in the rate hike case, currently before the Idaho PUC, still calls for $34 million in rate hikes,, hitting the typical residential consumer with a 4.19 higher monthly energy bills.

- Mountain Power  has a $32.7 MM    rate hike before the PUC, which will mean Idaho consumers would see their monthly power bills climb by 7.2%, their non-binding settlement agreement with groups again facing a residential consumers voice, provides the company with a $34 million in rate hikes over two years, hammering consumers with an 11.23 hike in their monthly bills.

- United Water is turning to the PUC for approval of  $7.6 million in rate hikes with an alarming 20 increase in monthly bills.

"I'm betting the overwhelming majority of Idahoans didn't  get a 7%, 9% or 20% raise or cost of living increase last year, and neither should the utility companies", said Wordelman.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

County Commishes Not Reading Tea Leaves Regarding PIO

Canyon County Commishes are  once again trying to convince citizens of the need for a Public Information Officer despite every indication the public is saying NO.  Add to this the cavalier attitude of spending over $80,000/year to fund this position flies in the face of taxpayers. IPT Opinion Piece

We live in an age where everyone wants instant access or response to the most trivial of questions.  THE GUARDIAN has watched the endorsements for the need of this position dribble out from various elected officials in the attempt to sway public opinion in this matter. The local paper did a poll and respondents to the poll said NO to the PIO idea.  Today we have a guest opinion from the Canyon County Commishes telling us how useful this person would be to their efforts at transparency and how hard it is to respond to the media effectively without someone in this position.

THE GUARDIAN would like to suggest the Commishes video tape every meeting and they make it available via YOUTUBE or some other online service.  They could also have a media press conference block of time set aside each day to make one of the three as well as any other elected official available to the media with that session also available on video access.

The Jumbo Shrimp oxymoron of the day has to be: "County PIO shouldn't add expense".  The cash meter for taxpayers starts the minute this position is filled. It will add expense to the county.  Just because they have the position budgeted does not mean they should spend our money.

Without a serious analysis of the cost v. benefit we think Auditor Clerk Chris Yamamoto is 100% correct in his vocal non support of having a County PIO.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Industrial Revenue Bonds Explained

Photo of Ktech Corporation buildingWhy offer an IRB Most states and many local governments offer industrial revenue bonds (IRB) as a way to encourage relocations and expansions of companies that provide jobs and expand economic opportunities for residents and the community. IRBs are an incentive to encourage a company to invest in Albuquerque.
What is an IRB? 
An Industrial Revenue Bond, or IRB, is a loan to a company from a private financing entity to build or buy a facility or buy land and/or equipment. IRBs are one way local governments can provide tax abatements to encourage relocation and expansion of companies.
How do they work?
The city issues the bonds but is not making the loan. The investor buying the bond makes the loan. The company must find its own bond purchaser. It can also buy its own IRBs. The city technically owns title to the facility built with IRBs and leases it to the company for up to 20 years. At the end of the term, title is transferred to the company.
Here’s an example: Company X wants to build a $15 million plant and buy $20 million in equipment. The city issues a $35 million bond for 20 years. During this period the company will repay the bond. The company gets a break on property taxes for land of $4.3 million over 20 years and a break on equipment property taxes of $1.15 million over 7 years. It’s not correct to say the company is getting $35 million in tax breaks. The $35 million represents the amount of money the company will invest in our community.
Do IRBs affect the city’s credit ratings?
No. Since the city is not responsible for the loan, the IRB does not have an impact on the city’s credit rating.

THE GUARDIAN thought the explanation of how IRB's work was cut short in the IPT today.  The above explanation came from the City of Albuquerque, NM. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Urban Renewal In Boise, Hawks New Stadium, City Council On Deck

Once again the WHACK A MOLE game of trying to throw money at pop up targets is well underway in Boise.  This time around it looms large Boise Urban Renewal may step up to home plate and throw $23.7 million of property taxpayer money at a new stadium for the Boise Hawks.  Here is a section lifted from the article in the Idaho Statesman today:

"• Option 1: Urban renewal area — Tax increment financing — paying for public improvements by capturing the increase in property taxes that improvements generate — can be used within a designated urban renewal area such as Boise is considering creating around 30th Street .
Who approves it: The City Council would decide."

Read more:

Mavens of the BETTER BOISE COALITION and no doubt baseball fans are trying to figure out how to download the cost of this project onto the backs of Boise property taxpayers.  By way of a tax shift if this gets approved all Ada County property taxpayers will get stuck paying for this project.  The smooth talk of TAX INCREMENT FINANCING has begun.  Most taxpayers have no clue how urban renewal works and the good people at the BETTER BOISE COALITION will do nothing to help educate property owners in this matter.

The soft sell is this will be a "multi-sport complex.  Is there a new foot ball venue in the works?

No vote of the people in this matter if Urban Renewal is used it will fall to the the Boise City Council to make the decision if urban renewal will be the financing instrument for this project.  Voters countywide should be given the opportunity to make this decision, not a few baseball fans who want a new stadium.