Friday, April 7, 2006

It was a great week for Idahoans

Guest opinion by Sen. Clint Stennett


Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, is the minority leader of the Idaho Senate. He represents District 25, which includes Blaine, Camas, Lincoln and Gooding counties.

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We did it! After 12 weeks, over 8,000 signatures on petitions, three citizen-packed committee hearings, nearly 1,200 e-mails and three drafts of legislation, we passed a two-year moratorium on coal-fired power plant construction. The bill passed the Senate (Wednesday, March 29) with a victorious 30-5 vote. Having passed the House 64-5, we have a solid two-thirds majority to override a veto if this bill is stopped in the governor's office.

Again, I would like to gratefully recognize the grassroots movement that many of you were a part of to make this possible. When I began this session 12 weeks ago, I had great support from the community to introduce a moratorium, but I had very little support from other legislators. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. Yet, you all sent e-mails, wrote letters, sent around petitions and organized busloads of people to visit Boise and testify before committees. You made this possible. Thank you for your support and time. We now have the time necessary to design a policy for electric generation facilities that reflects our priorities and values.

Just before the vote in the Senate, Sempra announced to its shareholders that it would be withdrawing from the Idaho Valley Energy Project in Jerome and selling the development rights to another company. This fact may have helped sway votes because the promises made by Sempra could not be counted on. Legislators saw this as the opportunity to create our own standards and set up the boundaries in Idaho in which this industry may operate. This announcement, along with the moratorium, gives Idahoans a collective sigh of relief.

Also last week, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that would require the energy interim committee to create a comprehensive statewide energy plan. This session, an array of legislation has been introduced that deals with energy issues ranging from coal-fired plants to wind energy to bio-diesel and ethanol fuels. It has become obvious that we need to revisit the drawing board and decide what the future of energy policy should look like.

It was a great week for Idahoans. However, I hope this close call will keep those of you who became involved aware of what goes on within our state. With the volume of response from those outside of Jerome County, it is clear that the effects of coal-fired electrical generation plants are beyond the scope of a single county commission's authority. On issues like this we need to have a state siting authority that gives all affected counties, agencies and citizens a seat at the table.

There are many other issues that we still need to address. This is only the beginning. I encourage you to see this process all the way through. Stay informed about the policies we will consider on this issue during the interim committee and in the upcoming legislature. Stay in touch with your senators and representatives. Take a bit of time to learn about those candidates who are running in your district; learn where they are on these issues, and vote accordingly. We now have the time to create balanced and healthy policies to regulate this industry. We have time to develop rules and regulations that protect our quality of life. But if the public stops voicing their opinion now, we will end up with slanted policy that will be influenced by special interests and big business. Join me, and let's keep working on this.

As always, I welcome any suggestions, or comments you have to offer. It is my honor to serve District 25. I can be reached by calling (208) 332-1000 or toll-free at (800) 626-0471, via e-mail at idleginfo@lso.idaho.gov, or by mail to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720.




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