Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case No. IPC-E-09-03, Order No. 30848

June 22, 2009

Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712

Website: www.puc.idaho.gov

 

PUC denies request to delay; sets public hearing for natural gas plant

 

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has set July 14 for a public hearing regarding an application by Idaho Power Company to build a 330-megwatt natural gas plant four miles south of New Plymouth.

 

The commission also set a July 24 deadline for written comments.

 

The commission has determined to proceed as planned in its consideration of the proposed Langley Gulch natural gas power plant despite a motion by several groups to delay the matter.

 

The groups, representing industrial and irrigation customers and environmental organizations, filed a Motion to Stay, alleging circumstances have changed since the utility filed an application in early March to build the plant. The groups cited a number of changes since March including 1) a vote by Idaho Power shareholders to develop a greenhouse gas reduction strategy, 2) a decision by Idaho Power to delay filing a future energy resource planning document to the end of this year, 3) the “far-reaching” nature of the decision given the Legislature’s approval of a faster moving process to approve or reject large power plants; 4) a softening market for wind turbines; 5) a continuing recession and 6) a lack of sufficient data to determine how effective Idaho Power’s demand response programs have been in reducing overall demand.

 

The commission said there will always be uncertainty about future conditions. “However, we can’t allow that uncertainty to paralyze us. There are very real consequences to the requested stay.” Although the commission said it will proceed with the established scheduling, the groups can renew their Motion to Stay at the start of the technical hearing, also scheduled for July 14.

 

Idaho Power opposed the motion as based on “what ifs” rather than credible evidence. The company said the technical hearing will provide the opportunity for the groups wanting the delay to raise their concerns. Further, Idaho Power said, delaying the project will substantially increase its cost and jeopardize the company’s ability to serve its customers by 2012 and thereafter.

 

Organizations asking for the delay included the Industrial Customers of Idaho Power, the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association, the Snake River Alliance, the Idaho Conservation League and the Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition.

 

According to Idaho Power, the plant will cost $427.4 million. If the commission issues the certificate before Sept. 1, construction would begin during the summer of 2010 and the plant would be commercially operational by December 2012.

 

Among the issues to be considered by the commission are the need for the additional resource, the fairness and transparency of the bid selection process and the ratemaking treatment.

 

The technical hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. on July 14 and can continue for up to three days. The public hearing will be at 7 p.m. on July 14. Both hearings are in the commission hearing room, 472 W. Washington St. in Boise.

 

The technical hearing will include the presentation of evidence by the parties to the case, including the above-mentioned groups as well as the utility and staff from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. Attorneys representing the parties may cross-examine witnesses during the technical hearing.

 

The technical hearing is open to the public, but public testimony is generally not taken during these hearings. Testimony from the general public will be taken at the evening public hearing.

 

Written comments, which are given the same weight as oral testimony presented at public hearings, are accepted through July 24. Comments can be e-mailed by accessing the commission’s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions." Fill in the case number, IPC-E-09-03, and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.