Idaho Statesman’s Accuracy Stinks

Here is a point-by-point critique of the Idaho Statesman’s August 17 editorial:

“Hidden Hollow Energy faces a bind, resulting in part from the Dynamis dealings.” Not true.

Fact: Hidden Hollow Energy’s problem is with DEQ, NOT Dynamis or Ada County. HHE wanted the county to spend approximately $1.5 million on a scrubber that they need in order to comply with their DEQ permit. We do not need a scrubber to comply with our DEQ permitting requirements, so we declined. Our contracts with HHE make no assertions about the quality of gas being provided, only the quantity.

“Hidden Hollow, which has produced energy from landfill methane gas since 2006, has built a second pair of engines to convert gas into electricity. But those engines aren’t running.” Not true.

Fact: Hidden Hollow Energy has never even installed the second set of engines at the landfill.
“When the company failed to meet deadlines for startup, Idaho Power voided its contract to purchase electricity from the new engines, levying a $144,000 fine. Hidden Hollow and the state Department of Environmental Quality are embroiled in a dispute over hydrogen sulfide emissions from the plant.” TRUE! Note: Hidden Hollow Energy has a problem with Idaho Power and DEQ, NOT with Ada County or Dynamis. In fact, Ada County even agreed to allow HHE to use the landfill boundary as its footprint for permitting purposes. DEQ rejected that proposal from HHE.

“But this dispute centers largely on Dynamis. In a $30 million tort claim, Hidden Hollow argues that the county’s commitment to provide trash to Dynamis has, in turn, jeopardized Hidden Hollow’s access to methane.” Not true. While this is the argument made by HHE in their tort claim, Statesman editorial page editor Kevin Richert never contacted the county to verify whether it is true.

Fact: Last Friday, I provided to Idaho Statesman publisher Mike Jung a graph showing that even by HHE’s OWN calculations, they have more than enough landfill gas to power all four engines even after Dynamis is up and has been running at full capacity for years to come! HHE’s graph inaccurately reflects the amount of landfill gas available today, a fact that I pointed out to HHE’s attorneys in a meeting some time ago. They acknowledged that I was correct! Unfortunately, that meeting was held in executive session, at HHE’s request, and so was not recorded; however, there were many people present who can confirm my statement.

“Ada County says there is no merit to this claim, and says it ‘has had no difficulty’ providing Hidden Hollow with its needed supply of methane.” TRUE!

“If the Hidden Hollow tort claim grows into a full-fledged lawsuit, attorneys from both camps could be in court arguing over the relative abundance of methane gas. Irony aside, the dispute raises more fundamental questions about Ada County’s headlong rush to do business with Dynamis. Why is the county so enamored with Dynamis — a company that, to date, is only talking about building a plant to process 408 tons of trash daily?”

Please read the previous articles on my blog to understand the Dynamis agreement timeframe and benefits. Here are links: Turning Waste Into Energy and Jobs, Not Necessarily News, and Case Closed.

“Why does the county’s Dynamis infatuation come, perhaps, at the expense of Hidden Hollow, which has been in the business for six years?” Not true.

Fact: There IS no expense to Hidden Hollow from the Dynamis project, as proven by HHE’s OWN graph. In addition, the first two engines are generating approximately $1.2-$1.3 million of revenue a year. After their initial investment of perhaps $3 million, Hidden Hollow Energy is making a boatload of money! The county receives about $250,000 out of the total revenue each year. HHE is making close to a million dollars a year just on the first two engines! Under the existing contract, the second two engines would generate a similar amount of revenue to each entity, as well.

The Dynamis project will save the county and its ratepayers an estimated $2 million a year for the first five years it is operational. In years 6-30, the county will receive 25 percent of the amount of tipping fees in place at the time on 408 tons of waste a day, with few associated costs. The project will generate $60 million or more of economic investment in the community, hundreds of construction jobs, 60 much-needed permanent jobs and enough locally-generated power to serve 20,000 households (or the equivalent in commercial users) per day.

Given that the Statesman is concerned about the two million non-tax landfill dollars (but NOT the $81 million we’ve saved for Ada County property taxpayers!) the best way to ensure that it is returned to the county is to move forward with the project. In addition, Dynamis is based in Eagle, Idaho, right here in Ada County. HHE is based in White Plains, New York. “Buy Idaho” should not just be a slogan!

“Shouldn’t the county put first things first — working with Hidden Hollow, a company that already pays the county $250,000 in annual royalties, as opposed to Dynamis, which still owes the county $2 million?” Note the potential benefits of the Dynamis project as compared to the HHE project. Also note, again, that these two projects are NOT mutually exclusive EVEN according to the graph supplied by the HHE folks themselves.

If you are not yet convinced by this large body of evidence that Ada County and Dynamis are just scapegoats for HHE’s problems with DEQ and Idaho Power, then here’s the clincher: The first agreement between Ada County and Dynamis was signed on June 30, 2010, and a news release issued about the project that same day, MORE THAN SIX MONTHS BEFORE Hidden Hollow Energy 2 signed the agreement with the county for the second two engines at the landfill. The county signed the agreement with HHE2 for the second two engines on February 22, 2011. If HHE now believes the Dynamis project will critically reduce the volume of available landfill gas, then it appears the blame lies with them, and ONLY them, for their failure to do their due diligence prior to signing the contract with Ada County for the second set of engines.

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