Monday, April 13, 2015

Former AEHI Vice President, Described by Attorneys As Having No Responsibilities, Will Plead Guilty to Fraud

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 2:43 PM

In February 2011, Boise Weekly interviewed Jennifer Ransom, former vice president of Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., after listening to AEHI's CEO Don Gillispie describe her as "a pretty blonde" in a federal court hearing where prosecutors alleged that the company was a shell for a "pump and dump" scheme.

"Quite frankly, Asians like a pretty blonde face to look at," said Gilliespie. "So it doesn't hurt." Gillispie referred to the numerous trips that he and Ransom had taken together, including to the Far East.

In fact, AEHI attorneys presented Ransom as a secretary with "no day-to-day responsibilities." During the hearing, AEHI attorneys referred to something called Bosco Financial LLC, through which hundreds of thousands of dollars had flowed. Ransom later told BW that "Bosco" was the name of a family dog.

A few months later, Ransom resigned from AEHI, citing "significant health-related issues."

And now Ransom has reached a plea agreement where she is expected to plead guilty of one count of securities fraud and forfeit more than $580,000 when she returns to the federal courthouse in Boise on Tuesday, April 21.

Meanwhile, Gillispie continues to fight charges of conspiracy and securities fraud and is still slated for a federal court trial this coming July.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

UPDATE: All Power Restored to West Treasure Valley Customers After Outage

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 12:28 PM

UPDATE: March 31, 2015 11 a.m.

Officials with Idaho Power confirmed that electricity to all west Valley customers that were hit by an outage saw their power restored by late Tuesday morning. Idaho Power said the source of the problem originated in the Eagle area, but the exact was still under investigation.

ORIGINAL POST: March 31, 2015 9 a..m

Thousands of Treasure Valley people had good reason to be late for work or school this morning. Idaho Power reported that up to 30,000 customers were impacted when a major transmission line that feeds into five substations went dark. Businesses, homes and schools in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Middleton and Star were affected. 

Idaho Power officials said an Eagle transmission line in the western portion of the Treasure Valley went out around 7:30 this morning. The Boise school district reported that there was no power at Cynthia Mann Elementary, Pierce Park Elementary, Riverglen Junior High and Shadow Hills Elementary, but classes were still scheduled.

And law enforcement added that a number of traffic signals were dark, so motorists were cautioned to treat the intersections as four-way stops.
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Friday, March 6, 2015

Idaho Power Approved for One-Year Energy Sales Agreement with Simplot's Pocatello Plant

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 12:25 PM

Regulators at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission have approved a one-year energy sales agreement between Idaho Power and J.R. Simplot Company's fertilizer plant in Pocatello.

Power generated at the plant comes from heat or steam that is the byproduct of a fertilizer manufacturing process. The contract calls for an average of 10 megawatts of electricity per month, though the plant can produce as many as 15.9 megawatts per month.

Regulators have determined that Simplot's facility qualifies as a renewable energy generation project under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, or PURPA, which requires utilities to purchase energy from renewable generation projects at regulator-established rates. 

The PUC has approved a proposed rate of $52.72 to be paid to Simplot in 2015, and $52.28 in 2016, though these rates will vary during heavier and lighter load hours, days and seasons over the course of the year.

In February, the PUC reduced the timeline for some PURPA contracts from the previously set 20 years to five years. Idaho Power, meanwhile, is trying to convince the PUC to further reduce those contracts to two years.

According to the PUC, the utility company contends that 20-year contracts requiring the purchase of "intermittent, renewable energy" places "undue risk on customers at a time when ... it has sufficient resources to meet customer demand."

What's more, "the company claims acceptance of the contracts will inflate power supply costs and negatively impact the reliability of its energy delivery system." 

Read the contract ruling below.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

BLM to Auction Land Near Payette for Oil and Gas Leases

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 1:53 PM

Alta Mesa V.P. of Operations Dale Hayes (center)  gave Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (right) a tour of the company's Payette County pipeline in July 2014. - MATT FURBER
  • Matt Furber
  • Alta Mesa V.P. of Operations Dale Hayes (center) gave Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (right) a tour of the company's Payette County pipeline in July 2014.
As controversy continues over oil and gas exploration in Payette County, the Bureau of Land Management is putting five parcels of land six miles east of the city of Payette up for auction

The parcels, which range in size from 560 acres to more than 1,700 acres, carry two stipulations: no activity can take place either above or below the surface of the land. That is, until the Four Rivers Resource Management Plan—which brings together three separate western Idaho land use plans—is completed. According to Tate Fischer, field manager for the Four Rivers Field Office, the plan should be complete by 2016.

Oil and gas companies have been eager to begin drilling in the Payette County area for years, though operations have been slow to mature. After drilling several successful test wells in the county, Canada-based energy company Bridge Resources declared bankruptcy on more than $44 million in debt. That was in 2011. In 2012, Texas-based Alta Mesa snapped up Bridge's leases and has been waiting ever since to get its operations under way.

Meanwhile, opposition to oil and gas drilling in the county has only grown. In November 2014, local anti-fracking activist Alma Hasse found herself locked in the Payette County Jail after being taken in handcuffs from a meeting of the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission. The body was considering matters related to oil and gas exploration, and when a P&Z commissioner challenged Hasse's testimony after public comment was closed, she fired back. When she refused to leave the meeting, she was jailed and held for seven days, refusing to give her name to police.

The upcoming lease auction is set for Thursday, May 28 at the BLM Idaho State Office in Boise. Bidding is open to the public, and prospective buyers will be required to register beforehand. Registration will start at 7:45 a.m., with the main oral auction occurring at 9 a.m. Following the national standard, minimum bids of $2 per acre will be accepted.

Written protests can be submitted by mail or fax to the BLM Idaho State Office: 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, 208-373-3899. Address protests to Tracy Hadley by 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 31. For instructions on filling out a protest, see Page 5 of the Notice of Competitive Oil and Gas Lease Sale (below).

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Public Utility Commission Approves Idaho Power Solar Projects

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 12:47 PM

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has given Idaho Power a green light on five solar power projects in conjunction with Boston, Mass.-based renewable energy contractor First Wind

The contracts between the two companies are for 20 years, and the five projects are expected to generate a total of 100 megawatts, providing energy to Ada, Elmore, Owyhee and Power counties. The contracts are also expected to generate approximately $10 million in property taxes over the next 20 years, as well as 250,000 MW hours each year. According to the PUC, that's enough electricity to power almost 30,000 homes.

"We're excited to announce these agreements for new solar energy in Idaho," wrote First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor in a press release. "These five projects will deliver clean, renewable solar energy to homes and businesses in Idaho at a cost-competitive price."

Representatives of Idaho Power, First Wind and the PUC expect the projects to be completed by the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, First Wind is set to be acquired by SunEdison and TerraForm Power by the end of the first quarter of 2015.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sierra Club Installs First Downtown Boise Electric Car Charging Station

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Reed Burkholder showed Boise Weekly how to charge his Nissan Leaf at the Sierra Club back in October. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Reed Burkholder showed Boise Weekly how to charge his Nissan Leaf at the Sierra Club back in October.

The Clipper Creek 240V EV Charging Station charges an electric vehicle from empty to full in three and a half hours. Now, an old little home on the corner of Fifth Street and Franklin that houses the Sierra Club’s Idaho office has one of the only car chargers like it in the state.

"If you didn't know what it was, you'd think it was a holder for a garden hose," said Harold Orien, chairman of the Sierra Club's Idaho chapter, during a press conference this morning to announce the charger's presence in the valley.  

The conservation organization installed the car charger on Sept. 19 through donations from its 2,300 members statewide, costing less than $1,300—inexpensive enough that Zack Waterman, the executive director of Idaho's Sierra Club, said no extra fundraising needed to be done.

The charging station cost less than $1,300 and took one week from the time it was ordered to the time it was installed and running on Sept. 19. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The charging station cost less than $1,300 and took one week from the time it was ordered to the time it was installed and running on Sept. 19.
The charger works with any electric vehicle and fully charges a battery in two to four hours. Waterman told BW that having a charging station downtown helps drivers of electric vehicles feel less "range anxiety." The typical electric car, like the Nissan Leaf, gets about 100 miles per charge. 

Reed Burkholder drives one of those. His license plate reads "KICKGAS," and he's a self-proclaimed "electric evangelist."

“As a town car, you can’t beat these,” Burkholder said. “In this car, I am getting 200 miles for the electricity cost of $3.70, the same price as one gallon of gasoline. which I think is freaking off the scale. This is a superior technology.”

This charger joins a handful of others around the city; there's two in the Lincoln Parking Garage at Boise State University, two at Hewlett-Packard, two in the parking garage at the airport, and one at an electricians' school in Garden City. The power streaming through the Sierra Club's charger costs the drivers nothing, and only 50 cents per hour of use for the Sierra Club.

Beth Baird, the city of Boise's air quality program coordinator, came to the press conference to show her excitement and support for the charger. She's also part of the Treasure Valley Clean Cities Coalition—a U.S. Department of Energy program that encourages the reduction of petroleum consumption.

She came to the Sierra Club to get all the information on the charger, which she'll then share with the Department of Energy so the agency can add the location to their alternative fuel station locator, used by people across the country.

The city is in full support of the Sierra Club's recent addition, with a statement from Mayor Dave Bieter praising the charging station.

"Every opportunity we give the residents of Boise to choose electric vehicles is a chance to make lasting change for our city's future," the mayor's statement said. "By joining the City of Boise in providing electric car charging stations, the Sierra Club makes it easier for organizations and individuals across the city to reduce our carbon footprint. Through commitments like this, we can all do our part to make Boise the most livable city in the country."

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

City of Boise Prepared to Become Solar Farm's Landlord

Posted By on Sun, Jul 27, 2014 at 9:52 AM

On average, there are more than 200 sunny days in Boise (and during the dog days of summer, it feels as if there are a lot more).

And those numbers should cast a long shadow over Boise City Hall this Tuesday, July 29, when the City Council will be asked to move forward with plans to lease public property to a private firm that wants to build a $45 million solar power plant.

It was four years ago when Mayor Dave Bieter, as part of his State of the City address, said that the city had a plan to lease city-owned property to Sunergy World to build a photovoltaic plant.

And this coming week, city leaders will be asked to commit to a 20-year lease, with an option for an additional 10 years, with Boise City Solar, a subsidiary of Sunergy, to build a 40 megawatt solar facility on 360 acres at the Twenty Mile South Biosolids Application Facility on South Cloverdale Road.

As part of the deal, the city would receive a lease rate of $150 per acre per year (approximately $54,000 per year). Additionally, the city would receive a franchise fee equivalency of 2.75 percent of the solar farm's gross operating revenue. That's estimated to be $143,000 per year.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

BLM Approving Gas Well Permits At Record Pace; Inspection of Wells? Not So Much

Posted By on Sat, Jul 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM

In the latest issue of Boise Weekly, we chronicle how Idaho is chugging along in its new era of gas exploration (BW, News, "Drilling into Idaho's Other Common Core," July 23, 2014).

"We were out here when there was no ground disturbed, there was no equipment around and we were told this is what's going to happen and this is how it's going to happen. At that time we didn't have a clue," said Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, surveying the scene of Alta Mesa's latest exploration efforts in and around Payette County.

Now, there's growing interest to explore and drill on Idaho's public lands. And while the Bureau of Land Management says it has dramatically improved is permit process (right now there are nearly 7,000 national permits that have been approved but are sitting unused), it's doing a poorer job of inspecting oil and gas wells.

"While permitting efforts have improved, critical inspections are lagging, and we must do better," said BLM Director Neil Kornze at the recently wrapped Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute in Vail, Colo. "Irregular and declining budgets have hindered our ability to move out agggressively in this area."

Kornze said he has a proposal to ramp up funding for more inspections through a fee system, which could add more than 60 new inspectors nationwide.

The BLM is responsible for inspection and enforcement on a record 100,000 wells nationwide, with tens of thousands of new wells coming on line in recent years.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Times: Sage Grouse Grounds Renewable Energy Projects

Posted By on Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 10:30 AM


According to a 2010 University of Idaho study, determining exact sage grouse population numbers is impossible (it's estimated that there are 150,000-400,000 in 11 states); but whatever that number is, sage grouse wield significant power when it comes to the region's environmental choices. And as federal officials mull whether to put it on the endangered species list, this morning's New York Times reports that the grouse is "at the center of one of the country's most important struggles: to balance the demand for energy against the needs of nature."

The sage grouse, sometimes called the “prairie chicken,” is known for an elaborate strutting dance the male birds perform when courting females. The species eats sagebrush, which is disappearing as its desert habitat is being developed.

And in a story called "Frack Quietly, Please: Sage Grouse Is Nesting," this morning's Times chronicles the "prairie chicken's" influence.

“Remember the economic impact of the spotted owl and how much it reduced timber production on federal lands?” said Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner. “The sage grouse has seven times the acreage of the spotted owl. You are looking at billions of dollars in lost economic activity, millions of dollars in lost state and local revenues and tens of thousands of jobs being lost.”

Interestingly, the sage grouse debate appears to have taken the biggest toll on wind energy, stalling several planned projects.
To date, federal officials have delayed, altered or denied permits to more than two dozen energy projects in the West because of the bird.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Boise Mayor Highlights Sustainability Practices of Local Businesses

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:26 PM

The offices of CSHQA designed and moved into a renovated warehouse on Broad Street with a platinum LEED certification as their target. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The offices of CSHQA designed and moved into a renovated warehouse on Broad Street with a platinum LEED certification as their target.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter gathered with representatives of the U.S. Green Building Council Idaho Chapter, Republic Services, Energy Seal, Boise Centre, CSHQA and the Owyhee to commend sustainability efforts of local businesses. The gathering took place on the porch of CSHQA—an architectural firm that renovated its own office space from an old warehouse across from the Ada County Courthouse.

"We as a city have been at this for quite some time," Bieter said. "We've long been looking for opportunities to expand our sustainability." 

He took this as an example to showcase Boise businesses that are going green. For CSHQA, the architects designed their whole office with the goal of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification. Its parking spaces are built with bricks and sand to allow storm water to percolate into the ground, its toilets are low-flow and its office is heated with geothermal-radiant floors. 

In the clean and modern-looking architectural office, it's not hard to imagine the building is energy efficient. But the executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council Idaho Chapter, Charlie Woodruff, pointed to some other businesses making a difference in the realm of sustainability.

One of them was Republic Services, the trash-and-recycling pick-up company for Boise, Eagle and Meridian.

"It's an honor to be asked here today as the trash company," said Rachele Klein of Republic Services. "You don't usually think of trash in terms of sustainability, but far from it." 

Republic Services has changed large pieces of its operation to fit into the mayor's goal of minimizing the city's carbon footprint. For example, 87 of the trash collectors' 105 garbage trucks now run on natural gas, a cleaner fuel than diesel. The company also trained all its drivers on techniques that help save fuel, like accelerating and decelerating slowly, checking air pressure in the tires daily and not letting the engine idle for longer than three minutes. 

"That saved over two gallons per truck per day," Klein said. "That's 210 gallons of fuel saved daily."

Republic Services also covers their trash daily with a tarp, where they used to use six inches of dirt. Now, they only use the dirt once every three or four days, saving 30 truck-loads of dirt per day—plus cutting back the fuel, carbon emissions, labor, and excavation required for that process. Klein said that will also increase the lifespan of the Ada County Landfill.

Another business highlighted for its sustainability efforts was the Boise Centre on the Grove. Mary-Michael Rogers explained how to make a convention center fit into an energy-efficient world, even though the building wasn't built with any LEED certification in mind. 

"Most of what we do, you may not see or be aware of," Rogers said. "Conventions bring in pounds upon pounds of paper and waste products. Trade shows bring in pounds of cardboard. So we make recycling very easy."

Boise Centre offers co-mingled bins for recycling in convenient locations to make recycling as easy as throwing something away in the trash.  

"We collected 32,610 pounds of recycled materials in 2013," she said. And sending that recycling off was a quarter the price of trash collection.

The convention center also installed light sensors in its 20 conference rooms that are linked to heating and cooling, so if the lights aren't on, neither are those energy-sucking systems. Most of their wine glasses are taken to Usful Glassworks, where they're repurposed as glasses used in restaurants around the Treasure Valley.

Lastly, Clay Carley, property developer of the high-profile Owyhee renovation and owner of Old Boise, talked about the importance of revitalizing old buildings in a sustainable way.

"Today, to take an old building that exists already and reuse it saves an incredible amount of energy, even if you replace it in a carbon-neutral sense," Carley said. "Reusing these buildings keeps character in the town."

The Owyhee, slated to open July 9, champions many of these energy-efficient techniques, as well as some new ones. Carley said it's one of the first buildings to harnesses geothermal water underneath the sidewalks to keep snow from piling up. Carley said another goal of the Owhyee apartments is to bring people who would normally have to commute to live in the downtown area.

Mayor Bieter ended the conference by stating it doesn't take a complete overhaul of someone's business to integrate green ideas that help reduce the city's carbon footprint.

"Sustainable practices aren't a burden on businesses. They're an opportunity," he said. "You can make sustainability practices part of your DNA. It's not an add-on, it's not something you do after you've done everything else. It's something you do every day. It's part of the very core of your practice."
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