Dynamis Energy, the company pushing to convert Ada County landfill trash into “green” power, refuses to answer very basic questions about itself.
This $75 million project is too sensitive to approve on a leap of faith. Based on what Dynamis has said publicly — and, more to the point, what Dynamis won’t say — we cannot and do not support this project at this time.
But here’s something we do support: the idea that Treasure Valley residents deserve more time to review the project, a greater opportunity to have a say. That’s only fair. And if it slows down the timeline, to Dynamis’ detriment, then that is a problem of the company’s making.
This project now is at a critical juncture.
Æ Dynamis has received $2 million from Ada County for design work — a sum that must be repaid before it can obtain a building permit. “We have the money to pay it when we’re ready,” CEO Lloyd Mahaffey said in a June 29 meeting with the Statesman. “Our plan is to pay them back.”
Æ Dynamis says it has invested $10 million in the project.
Æ Dynamis has a contract to deliver electricity to Idaho Power, beginning in February 2014.
But Dynamis needs an air quality permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality, a key regulatory obstacle. The Idaho Conservation League says it plans to protest the permit, if issued. If the state issues a draft permit, ICL wants the state to hold a public hearing and allow 90 days for public comment.
Time is needed to sort out the facts about the project — and about Dynamis. Most telling and troubling is the company’s refusal to talk about projects elsewhere.
In the June 29 Statesman interview, Mahaffey refused comment. “We’re not talking about anything outside Ada (County).”
Yet his company prominently — but vaguely — touts its holdings. Here’s a quote from a July 30 news release: “Dynamis Energy currently has projects under way in North America, South America, the Caribbean and Europe.” However, when asked, the company refused to elaborate and wouldn’t even say where the projects are located.
A proven track record — if indeed it exists — should be a company’s selling point. So what is this company trying to hide?
Is it the fact that two waste-to-energy plants in Puerto Rico are proceeding without Dynamis — only months after the company had been listed as a partner?
Or the fact that a proposed Dynamis plant in Riverton, Wyo., stalled out, because county officials questioned whether the project was financially feasible?
Or is something amiss with a Dynamis project in Italy — which Mahaffey said, as recently as May, would be the first company project to go online?
By touting experience, without providing details, Dynamis is expecting Treasure Valley residents to take assurances at face value. That’s unrealistic, especially considering the project’s environmental and economic magnitude. Dynamis says its plant will super-heat 408 tons of waste daily, using the trash to produce gas that, in turn, produces power. Dynamis also says the plant will create more than 800 construction jobs and 60 permanent jobs.
Transparency matters. So far, it’s been lacking.
When Dynamis will not answer basic questions about its holdings, that casts doubt on its assurances that the Ada County project will be environmentally benign. That doubt lends credence to ICL’s concerns — and weight to the request for a more thorough public review.
Dynamis did hold two public meetings in July, of its own accord. But holding meetings is one thing. Answering questions is another.
On Wednesday, citing the ICL’s filing with the state, Dynamis postponed a meeting with the Statesman editorial board, 90 minutes beforehand. In a letter from legal counsel Wade Thomas, Dynamis says it will “not be hosting any media interviews” until the DEQ permitting process is “complete.”
In other words, Dynamis isn’t talking until its project is, from a regulatory standpoint, a done deal.
Skeptical yet? You should be.
The DEQ holds sway over something of great value to Dynamis — something of greater value, evidently, than public relations and its community image. The air quality permit is the project’s linchpin. On behalf of everyone with a stake in this project’s environmental and economic viability — everyone from neighbors to prospective employees — the DEQ should slow this process down.
“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board.