Instead of leading the state in developing energy jobs and programs, the office already is shifting to a coordinating role under interim Director John Chatburn. He told the Idaho Legislatures interim committee on energy, environment and technology Thursday that the staff would be cut from 14 to 10, down from 18 when the office was in the Idaho Department of Water Resources.
Under Director Paul Kjellander, who returned to serve on the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, the office boldly shifted policies to encourage energy efficiency, helped schools save millions through energy conservation and solar projects and pressed for energy-related job and economic development. The office used $40 million from the 2009 federal stimulus bill to make the state a leader in creating energy jobs during the recession.
But Chatburn told the committee Thursday he was working to present the states position on transmission projects and other initiatives by utilities and the federal government.
Republican Co-chairman George Eskridge of Dover expressed concern over whether the cuts will allow the office to adequately advocate the states energy interests. Democratic Rep. Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum was even more critical. She said the office should be setting the states energy course for the future, not reacting to others plans.
Were missing a huge opportunity for the state, Jaquet said. "I want the office doing more than just going to meetings.
The office is shifting away from delivering services and passing through federal dollars, Chatburn said.
Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk of Boise said he wants a robust energy office. Is that the best use of taxpayer money, to run this office at this reduced role? Werk asked.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484