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Economic and dam related articles

GOP Leaders Back Measure
to Help City Utilities

by Associated Press
Idaho Statesman, February 17, 2010

BOISE, Idaho -- Some ranking Idaho Republican leaders say support is strong for a measure that would give cities operating their own electrical utilities the authority to sign long-term deals with major power suppliers.

Leaders from Idaho Falls and the city-owned utility have been lobbying state lawmakers to pass a resolution this year enabling the utility to complete a 17-year power supply contract with the Bonneville Power Administration.

That joint resolution was introduced in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee Tuesday, the same day House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley predicted few hurdles to passage.

"I don't know that there's any opposition that I've heard of," Bedke told The Post-Register. "I think that one's smooth sailing."

Passage could mean good news to several Gem State cities with publicly owned electrical utilities.

Supporters of the measure say long-term contracts with big power providers are a good policy since they typically lead to cheaper power rates and predictable bills for customers.

Even though it operates its own electric utility and generates some portion of the Idaho Falls' power demand, the utility buys about 60 percent of its power from BPA.

To reduce its costs, the city prefers signing long-term deals with BPA. But a 2006 Idaho Supreme Court decision questioned the legality of those contracts, specifically a city's ability to go into long-term debt with voter approval.

That ruling has made BPA cautious about signing a new contract with Idaho Falls.

The resolution being considered by lawmakers would permit such contracts without voter approval. But it's just a first step since the change would require amending the constitution. Voters would then consider the constitutional amendment during the general election in November.

Associated Press
GOP Leaders Back Measure to Help City Utilities
Idaho Statesman, February 17, 2010

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