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Eye On Boise

Energy hearing brings calls not to jettison features of ‘07 energy plan

Testimony at today's hearing on proposed revisions to the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan has included pleas to keep in the plan numerous items that the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance board, a group appointed by Gov. Butch Otter, has proposed taking out. Among them: Backing incentives for people to use more fuel-efficient vehicles, including natural gas-powered and flex-fuel vehicles; support for local-option taxes as an option for communities that want to fund public transit; “decoupling” rate-setting from sales, as is already under way in a pilot project between the Idaho PUC and Idaho Power Co., to remove disincentives for utilities to implement energy efficiency programs; backing frequent updates to building codes for energy efficiency; and making energy efficiency and conservation the “highest” priority in the plan; the board recommends downgrading that to just “a priority.”

“Offering incentive packages is a sensible way to drive the market toward meeting energy-efficiency goals,” Heather Wheeler, executive director of the Community Transportation Association of Idaho, told the Legislature's Interim Committee on Energy, Environment & Technology. She also noted the removal of local-option taxes from the plan and said some Idaho resort communities already have made good use of local-option sales taxes for transit projects; Sen. Curtis McKenzie, co-chairman of the joint committee, said he thought the panel should discuss that. “I put that in my notes, to do that,” he told Wheeler.

Ben Otto of the Idaho Conservation League said Idaho's “decoupling” pilot project is in its fifth year and a decision is scheduled by the PUC this spring on whether to make it permanent. “It is an option that should be on the table for them to consider, and this plan should reflect that,” he said.

Testimony continues at 1:30 this afternoon after a lunch break; you can watch live here.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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