The Dynamis cone of silence: the backstory

In Sunday's Insight section, our editorial board will weigh in on the controversial Dynamis Energy project — the proposal to convert trash from the Ada County landfill into electricity.

Rather than post a preview of the editorial, I thought it might be useful to set the stage and provide some backstory.

For more than a month, since Dynamis officials held an impromptu June 29 meeting with Statesman reporters and editors, I have been trying to arrange a meeting between company officials and the editorial board. (The June 29 meeting was held late on a Friday afternoon, and I was the only editorial board member who was able to attend on short notice.)

After some haggling, we had an appointment for the editorial board to meet Wednesday afternoon at Dynamis' Eagle offices. About 90 minutes before the meeting time, Dynamis postponed the meeting.

How come? Dynamis cited a protest to the project, which the Idaho Conservation League filed on Monday with the state Department of Environmental Quality. In this letter, ICL says it will protest a state air quality permit for the project, because the group believes the plant will violate state and federal air standards. ICL also requests a public hearing and a 90-day public comment period, if the state decides to issue Dynamis a draft permit.

"Dynamis will not be hosting any media interviews until the administrative process related to the outstanding air quality permits is complete," Dynamis legal counsel Wade Thomas wrote.

To me, that timetable is very important, and disconcerting. The DEQ permit is the last key regulatory hurdle facing Dynamis. Holding a meeting after the end of the permitting process is, essentially, an academic exercise. I also fail to see any reason why Dynamis couldn't meet, the ICL's objections to the project notwithstanding.

On Thursday, I emailed Thomas a list of questions we had hoped to cover in our meeting. My reasoning is simple: If any or all of these questions have been addressed publicly, in meetings or in public documents, then there should be no reason why Dynamis can't answer them now. In an email Friday afternoon, Thomas said Dynamis' position on media inquiries "has not changed."

I know some will read this post as a battle between a company and a newspaper — and view the Sunday editorial through that prism. That's unavoidable. But I believe a company such as Dynamis owes transparency to the people who live near a plant site, to the people who might wind up working at the plant, and ultimately, to anyone who has an environmental or economic stake in this project. When we pose questions, we do so on readers' behalf and in the public interest.

On Sunday, we will write on this project, based on what we do know, and don't know.

WHAT WE ASKED

Here are the questions I submitted to Dynamis Thursday. Cynthia Sewell, our reporter covering the Dynamis proposal, also submitted many of these questions Wednesday:

General questions

Can we get an update on the permitting status? What is the current status with the Department of Environmental Quality, and timetable? How might the Idaho Conservation League’s recent filing affect this schedule?

Where does this leave the construction timetable? Will, or could, Dynamis still start construction next month?

What is the status of the $2 million owed to the county? In our June 29 meeting, Lloyd Mahaffey said that Dynamis has the money to pay back the county when it is ready, and the plan still is to pay back the money. Is there a timetable to do so?

How much federal money has Dynamis received to date? How much federal money do you expect Dynamis to have received by the time the Ada County plant goes online?

According to the PowerPoint presented in July, about $10 million has been spent thus far on the Ada County project. Can you give us a sense of the scope of the work to date?

There has been a lot of discussion about dioxin emissions, and this is discussed at some length in the PowerPoint as well. Please walk us through the methodology used to arrive at Dynamis’ dioxins emissions modeling?

Does the processing of tires, as a portion of the 408 tons to be processed daily. Does this pose a different environmental risk than the residential waste to be burned? What about the availability of tires?

Does Dynamis have any comment about the $30 million tort claim filed by Fortistar’s subsidiaries, regarding its ability to access methane gas for power generation?

In an affidavit, Chas Ariss stated, “my name, reputation, and credentials as an Idaho-licensed engineer were used without my consent by Mr. Lloyd Mahaffey.” Is this true? What is the status of Idaho Board of Professional Engineers investigation into Mr Ariss’ claims?

Questions regarding other projects

On June 29, Lloyd Mahaffey said, “We’re not talking about anything outside of Ada.” With all due respect, we think it’s important to ask about other projects in order to consider Dynamis’ track record. These questions are submitted with that in mind.

On its website and in its marketing materials, Dynamis says, “We design, build and own low emission, low capital and low operating and maintenance cost waste to energy plants.” Can you quantify this statement?

In the July 30 news release, Dynamis stated: “Dynamis Energy currently has projects underway in North America, South America, the Caribbean, and Europe.”
When asked by the Statesman on July 30 to identify cities/state/countries in which projects are “under way” Dynamis responded: “(W)e do not comment on specific projects or any of Dynamis' international activities as the competitive environment is extremely vibrant. Dynamis will not comment further beyond the press release statement.”
How can this statement be verified? Would you be willing to provide redacted contracts as proof of other projects under way?

Is the Barrow technology identical to the Ada technology?

Is the Middleton technology identical to the Ada technology? Has Dynamis processed anything other than tires at its Middleton facility? Why won’t Dynamis submit tests from its Middleton facility to DEQ?

Why did Primoris/Synergy terminate its agreement with Dynamis less than four months after it was announced? Why is the Puerto Rico project moving forward without Dynamis?

What is the status of the Italy plant? Is there a project name? A partner? An address?

Southfork Landing questions

Is Eagle Springs Ranch/Southfork Landing still in default on its $24 million loan with Mortgage Fund 08, which has since filed bankruptcy?

Eagle Springs Ranch/Southfork Landing still owes Boise County $400,000 in property taxes? Why was this only partially remedied by July 23 to avoid tax-deed sale? Now that roughly half of the parcels are slated for tax-deed sale, what does this mean for the project?

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