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Tribe wants say on coal gasification plant

Associated Press

POCATELLO, Idaho – The governor and local city leaders strongly support a coal gasification energy plant slated to be built at a defunct phosphate plant, but the Shoshone Bannock Tribe contends the idea is neither new nor inclusive.

The Fort Hall Business Council had been in negotiations in 2003 and 2004 with Ramesh Raman, then a representative of Anzor Energy.

But now Raman is president of Delaware-based Southeast Idaho Energy. The company, made up of principals from Energy Development Group of Wilton, Conn., is proposing an $850 million coal-gasification power plant.

Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Attorney Bill Bacon said the tribe has been excluded from those discussions.

Tribal officials tried to buy the old FMC Corp. phosphate plant. It closed in 2001, but the company imposed conditions that council members would not approve.

Lizanne Davis, director of government affairs for FMC, said the company gave the tribe exclusive use of land and water rights for six months to allow them to put the project together. But FMC asked the tribe to forfeit some tribal employment guidelines, forgo litigation on area property and continue taking part in cleanup at the plant and the Gay Mine, a former phosphate mine on the reservation. Finally, FMC officials wanted the tribe to stop filing natural resource claims against the company.

Negotiations stalled over cleanup of the Gay Mine, Davis said, but tribal officials say they had deeper concerns.

The site is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Superfund cleanup projects. Tribal Vice Chairman Wesley Edmo says the tribe’s concern was to see that EPA provided oversight and cleanup at the site, where the FMC plant sits.

When an agreement could not be reached with Shoshone-Bannock tribal officials, Power County entered into negotiations with Southeast Idaho Energy and FMC.

Bacon said construction of the plant will require EPA certification and depend on Raman’s ability to secure offsite contracts. However, Energy Development has nine stalled projects on the table. One that’s on hold in New Mexico has been stalled for three years.

Charles High, who sold Energy Development land in the New Mexico desert, said he was told the company stalled its negotiations because of a lack of funding, and he has not since heard back from the group.

“They said they had to draw back on their funding because this was down on their list a little ways,” High said. “We gave them a period of time to perform, and that passed.”

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