Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Info sessions on power plant scheduled

Legislators to host meetings in Sun Valley and Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County residents will have a chance to learn more about the impacts of the coal-fired power plant proposed for Jerome County when state legislators host two meetings on the topic next month.

Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, and House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, and Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, will moderate panel discussions Wednesday, Dec. 7.

The public forums will take place at the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn at 5 p.m. and at the Rotary Room of the Community Campus in Hailey at 7:30 p.m.

"We're trying to energize people at a grassroots level," Stennett said. "People are feeling there's nothing they can do about this. (They) need to get more involved and informed, and to recognize the enormity of this project and what the potential of this could be on our air and water."

California-based Sempra Generation announced in April its desire to build a $1.4 billion, 600-megawatt coal-fired plant east of the city of Jerome.

Opponents of the project say the project's potential adverse effects would be felt in Blaine County and beyond.

Panelists will present information on air and water pollution, the health effects of mercury from power plants, and ways to get involved in protecting air quality.

Stennett will present an overview of power plant siting legislation, steps taken by the Legislature and possible legislative solutions.

Lawmakers gave a cool reception during last year's legislative session to Stennett's siting bill.

The bill would have created a statewide committee, including members of Idaho Fish and Game, the Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Public Utilities Commission and the state Department of Agriculture, that could help guide a more stringent siting process.

Jerome County officials have sole authority to approve the facility if Sempra obtains necessary DEQ permits and a transfer of water rights.

Stennett last summer presented another draft of the bill to the interim energy committee, but it failed to gain steam.

"I believe the legislators who voted on this last summer had not heard from their constituents," Stennett said Tuesday. "If we energize and inform the public, they may turn the legislative process around."

Stennett, Jaquet and Pence have recently been meeting with Magic Valley officials in hopes of encouraging a regional joint-powers agreement for power plant siting authority.

Scheduled panelists at the forums are Lauren McLean, community conservation associate of the Idaho Conservation League; Joe Ruschetti, a retired engineer and hospital administrator; and Bill Block, an engineer from Twin Falls.

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