Ada County politics: Ullman says Dynamis will not hamper other landfill energy project

Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman submitted the following guest opinion Monday, criticizing the Statesman's Friday editorial on the Dynamis waste-to-energy project.

The upshot: Ullman restates the county's assertion that the Dynamis project will not compromise Hidden Hollow Energy, a company that has converted Ada County landfill methane gas into energy since 2006. The county says there is adequate garbage, and methane gas, to accommodate both waste-to-energy projects. Hidden Hollow disputes this and has filed a $30 million tort claim against the county. A tort claim is a precursor to a possible lawsuit.

(A random, interesting sidelight: The guest opinion, emailed to me, was cc'd to fellow Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre, but not to newly appointed Commissioner Dave Case, who opposes the Dynamis project. Dynamis CEO Lloyd Mahaffey merited a cc, though.)

Here, in full, is the Ullman guest opinion, which also will appear in Tuesday's Statesman:

Here is a point-by-point critique of the Idaho Statesman’s Aug. 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 the state Department of Environmental Quality, NOT Dynamis or Ada County.

"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 BUILT the second set of engines at the landfill.

"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.

Fact: Last Friday, I provided to Statesman Publisher Mike Jung a graph showing that even by HHE's OWN calculations, it has 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 several months ago.

"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 million to $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 $1 million 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 about $2 million a year for the first five years it is operational.

In years six to 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 over $60 million of economic investment, hundreds of construction jobs, 60 permanent jobs and enough locally generated power to serve 20,000 households (or the commercial equivalent) per day.

Given the Statesman’s concern about the $2 million non-tax landfill dollars (but NOT the $81 million we've saved for Ada County property taxpayers!) the best way to ensure they are returned to the county is to move forward. In addition, Dynamis is based in Eagle. HHE is based in White Plains, N.Y. “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?" These two projects are NOT mutually exclusive even according to HHE’s OWN graph.

Fact: The first agreement between Ada County and Dynamis was signed on June 30, 2010, and a news release issued that same day. Ada County signed the agreement with Hidden Hollow Energy 2 for the second two engines on Feb. 22, 2011, more than six months later! If HHE now believes the Dynamis project will critically reduce the volume of available landfill gas, then they failed to do its due diligence prior to signing the contract with Ada County for the second set of engines.

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Ullman's communication fetish continues

She seems to think she can control her message by choosing who she will and won't talk to. Thank goodness the voters chose to retire her.

As for the substance of her opinion, I'll withhold judgment even as I withhold much in the way of benefit of the doubt on her behalf. Her goodwill account was overdrawn a long time ago.

Ullman's opinion piece

If there is a lawsuit, which there is, why is an official of Ada County speaking about it at all? I agree, Ms. Ullman has used up her goodwill, so let this process play out, since the people of Ada County have no choice at this point, except at the polls. Which is where it always counts. Maybe our lesson as the public is to be very aware of who is running and if we have a party affiliation to expect the party to support Intelligent, committed ( to their electorate), candidates of solid character and willingness to be open and above board.

So, is the Editorial Board......

intentionally misleading the public or just lazy in it's fact finding?


Commissioner Ullman is entitled to her response.

But her basic assertion -- that Dynamis will not affect Hidden Hollow's supply of methane gas -- is in dispute. That's the crux of the $30 million tort claim against the county.

As for the status of the two engines, we reported last week that they were "on site but not operating, pending outcome of the complaints."

Here's the link:

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

CC to Yzaguirre

Could it be that the copy to Commissioner Yzaguirre is because he is the Board Chairman, not a slight to Commissioner Case, as you imply?