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Sempra, Still in the Game

Energy company still active politically in Idaho


After 20 years, Idaho is lurching toward revising its statewide energy plan, but not without a few bumps. The idea to start drafting a new plan to guide the state's energy use by its growing populace started when California-based Sempra Energy proposed building a coal-fired power plant near Jerome. In the groundswell of opposition to Sempra, the Legislature agreed it was time to develop a new statewide energy policy.

Now, the guy who had to be the face of Sempra's fall in Idaho is taking a few swipes back at the Legislature. Roy Eiguren, who acted as Sempra's lobbyist during the Legislature's 2005-2006 session, told members of the interim Energy Committee in mid-June that their work was unnecessary.

"I'm sure you recall that the former Soviet Union adopted countless similar long-term plans to guide their economy, including energy development, and they didn't work," Eiguren wrote in a letter to committee members. Not one to mince words, Eiguren said the current plan, drafted in 1983, was "useless" and a new plan would be the same. And although Eiguren made it clear in his letter's opening that he was speaking for himself, not as a representative of any client, he is still nonetheless still under retainer by Sempra as a consultant, according to officials at Sempra's San Diego headquarters. (Eiguren did not respond to messages requesting comment.)

And although Sempra officials still say the company has no intention of going forward with their power plant in Idaho, they are staying involved politically. Campaign finance records at the Idaho Secretary of State's Office show that even as Sempra was pulling the plug on their Idaho plant, they were writing checks to Idaho politicians from both sides of the aisle. But by May, they only had cash for one politician, U.S. Rep. Butch Otter, the Republican running for governor against Democrat Jerry Brady. The company maxed out its donation to Otter for a May primary fundraiser, writing him a $5,000 check, according to Otter's campaign.

Looming over the proceedings, of course, is the question of whether Gov. Jim Risch will opt in to a federal pollution-trading program that would facilitate the construction of coal-fired power plants in Idaho.

"He's not made any declaration one way or another," Risch spokesman Brad Hoaglund said of his boss. Look for that declaration, Hoaglund said, about mid-August.