State energy chief pledges openness, in response to questioning from lawmaker

From The Spokesman-Review’s “Eye on Boise”

When Paul Kjellander, head of the Idaho Office of Energy Resources, briefed a legislative interim committee this morning about the wide-ranging work on options for Idaho’s energy future being done out of his office by the Strategic Energy Alliance, an effort launched by the governor that includes task forces, a board of private industry representatives, and a council that includes state agency heads, Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise, said she had a legal concern. The work of the alliance, which was created by an executive order from the governor, is “in a gray area with regard to whether the work is public or private,” she said. That’s why she’s been working with the governor’s office on legislation to codify the entire Idaho Office of Energy Resources, which actually doesn’t exist in state law, but also was created by executive order. Writing the agency into state law would give it the Legislature’s blessing as well, she noted, as well as clarifying that everything it does is subject to the state’s open meeting and public records laws.

“In my view, there’s public policy being created by the Office of Energy Resources through the Strategic Energy Alliance, and in my view, the process should be open and transparent,” Kelly said. “The codification would have that value.” Kelly noted that while the governor’s office has worked with her on the legislation, it’s indicated that this year is not the right time to enact it. Asked to explain that, Kjellander told lawmakers, “There will be a time in the near future, I hope.”

He said the “main concern from the state’s perspective, the Office of Energy Resources in cooperation with the governor’s office,” is that the coming legislative session will be a time when consolidating agencies will be under consideration, and “even the potential discussion of eliminating some agencies. … Those discussions are likely to take place in the hallways across the street,” at the state Capitol. To write Energy Resources into law as a new official state agency at the same time, Kjellander said, “might … just be poor timing.” Kjellander said the executive order that created his office still is in effect, and it can continue operating under it for now. He also pledged to keep its operations “transparent,” saying, “I feel confident that I’ll hear your messages pretty loud. … I think Sen. Kelly communicated her concerns very clearly.”

From The Spokesman-Review’s “Eye on Boise”

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