Ada Commishes Pay $2.65 Million For Trash Power Rights



There’s big money to be had at Ada County’s landfill, even if it’s just for blue sky.

When the new commishes took over three years ago, they decided it was in the county’s best interest to payoff Dynamis about $2,000,000 to go away after it became apparent the outfit was not able to live up to its claims to produce energy from trash. The county ended up with a set of plans for some sort of burner that was never built.

Today they announced yet another “money saving” move. Ada agreed to pay off Fortistar, the outfit that captures methane gas from rotten garbage to make electricity. This settlement is for $2,200,000 plus another $451,000 in attorney fees. Fortistar had cut a deal with the county and Idaho Power to generate electricity. Fortistar claimed that diverting trash (fuel) to Dynamis would reduce the gas produced. But since Dynamis is gone, we are at a loss to figure what injury they can claim.

So far Ada taxpayers have been tapped for $4.651 million in energy-related settlements at the county dump and most of it goes for “rights, attorney fees, and settlements.” There is some cash royalty from electricity generated using the methane gas that is captured at the site. It appears the commishes were victims of previous bad decisions, but we cannot readily tell you what they purchased on our behalf. There is a good chance that Ada County will be in the gas/electricity sales business in the future.

This link provides a good background PRIMER.
Here is the Ada County press release spin:

Ada County has settled a lawsuit involving the Ada County Landfill and through this process has secured the rights to future energy.

In 2010, Ada County entered into a contract agreement with Dynamis Energy for designs for a trash-to-energy facility. The Ada County Board of Commissioners and Dynamis Energy terminated those plans as a result of a variety of factors concerning the project. Fortistar, who currently converts gas into energy at the Ada County Landfill, filed a suit against the county in late 2013 pertaining to the Dynamis Energy contract.

Through mediation, Ada County was able to come to an agreement with Fortistar and at the same time, buy out all future energy rights at the Ada County Landfill. The current system creates enough electricity to power about 2,400 homes. With this settlement, Ada County has created an asset for its citizens by securing the rights to use all future excess gas created at the landfill.

“The Ada County Board of Commissioners chose to end this lawsuit because it’s what’s best for our citizens,” said Chairman Jim Tibbs. “We continue to focus on the future of the county and work towards being even more environmentally responsible to sustain our quality of life in Ada County.”

3/31/16 UPDATE

The DAILY PAPER‘s Cynthia Sewell offered up more details in today’s story. Bottom line seems to be the county paid $2.65 million for the right to burn off excess gas into the atmosphere!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Unbelievable!

  2. Warm Fuzzy Feeling
    Mar 29, 2016, 5:11 pm

    Warm fuzzy feeling!

    Don’t you worry. Nat gas prices are historic lows and supply at historic highs. It will only take a million years to break even. Brilliant economic strategy! Tell me, how do I send even more of my money to the local brain trust?

    But wait! There’s more! The gas scavenging system is old and needs to be replaced… only a few more million.

  3. chicago sam
    Mar 29, 2016, 6:14 pm

    Probably worth rereading the Jan. 13, 2012 post “Boise Attorney opposed to Dynamis deal” for background info. Fred Tillman Sharon Ullman and Rick Yzaguire were County Commissioners at the time and blundered into the Dynamis contract when they already had a contract with Fortistar. I remember Mr. Steele at the time saying this has the makings of some very large retirement funds for attorneys. Repair of broken and voided contracts is usually expensive—current Commissioners may well have gotten the best deal available but former commissioners were the culprits

    EDITOR NOTE–We agree Sam. It is still galling that we unwashed have to pay the price for all the “deals” our local government folks work out on our behalf.

  4. It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.
    ~Thomas Sowell

  5. If only foresight was 20/20 like hindsight. Read BG’s primer link especially the comment by Gene Fadness. The contract was complicated and designed to play out over 20 years. And as I remember it, it wasn’t so much about generating electricity, but more about reducing or mitigating the costs of operating the dump.

    You see, it ain’t cheap to run garbage trucks all around at 4:30 in the morning and to dig a pit, liner to EPA specs and bury all those tons of garbage every day. Don’t forget about the elaborate GPS tracking and mapping of every single load in case the cops need to dig up a body in the future.

    No one has ever been charged with a crime right? Sharon tried to explain it but no one wanted to listen. The lynch mob had its mind made up. Remember when Mark Johnson cut her short on Viewpoint? Mark, if you’re reading this, that was low.

    I’m pretty sure the then Commissioners thought they were doing the right thing, but stuff happens and the deal went bad.

    The real question here is what policies have been put in place to prevent a repeat? And what oversight are you daily complainers providing?

    Another real question: If the dump is getting a cut of the electricity, why does my Boise City Utility Billing bill keep going up? Weren’t all those new bins supposed to reduce costs? Yeah, what about the bin experiment?

  6. Foothills Rider
    Mar 30, 2016, 11:01 am

    “Fortistar had cut a deal with Dynamis”

    Where did this come from? Fortistar filed a 30 million torte against the county as some of their required refuse stream was going to be diverted to Dynamis, potentially affecting their operation. Just because Dynamis is gone doesn’t change their claim.

    Can you share the deal to which you are referring?

    EDITOR NOTE–You are correct. I was confused about the original filing. The “deal” was with the county and Idaho Power. What I don’t understand is what injury Fortistar had if the trash for gas was never diverted to Dynamis. Would appreciate any help from readers.

  7. If that press release is supposed to be informative in some way, maybe they need to hire another PR person to help with the press releases!

    My take-away: The system is currently generating enough energy for 2400 homes. (The rest is mumbo-jumbo.)

    So – if everybody who uses the landfill would double their trash volume… we could conceivably power almost 5000 homes!

  8. What is interesting to me is that Boise’s waste water treatment plants have the ability to run on methane gas, but don’t. The West Boise Waste Water Treatment plant had and maybe still has methane power generators that they can’t use because of Idaho Power.

  9. Foothills Rider
    Mar 30, 2016, 5:45 pm

    Editor, you may recall that prior to Dynamis (but actually part of the scheme) was the creation through declaration (no public meetings) of a new green industrial park called ARTIC – Ada Renewable Technology Industrial Complex. This was what paved the way for the false RFP so Dynamis could be ‘hired’. All of this happened within weeks of each other.

    See comment here by modern columbo in your own Guardian, outlining the zoning issues that were never addressed when ARTIC was suddenly there.

    You ask why they might now settle: I purport the county is covering all the bases for future pet projects that are related to energy or the ARTIC designation (even as they are still not allowed per current zoning), as they have bought out Fortistar’s rights to future excess gas production through this settlement. Fortistar could otherwise sue next time the county is scammed by another green industry involving trash and that knows they can make some money in the deal. You know, we are getting a reputation as easy-to-scam. A million here, a couple million there.

    See this article, where ARTIC was very much pre-planned to allow for Dynamis:

  10. Warm Fuzzy Feeling
    Mar 30, 2016, 10:44 pm

    Are any of the three stooges who did this still in office here, or anywhere else? Political types are like biofilm; nearly impossible to wash away. I fear they will return to their parasitic career with a new hair color and knowledge of the public’s six day memory.

  11. Being as the Ada Commissioners got snookered by Dynamis into a fancy incinerator scam from the beginning, it is an outrage we are still paying for it. The only good news is that it never got built, otherwise we would all be breathing a toxic, carcinogenic soup. Thank the vocal minority who put up a big stink and shot this albatross down.

    “…waste-to-energy schemes masquerading as renewable-energy sources,… …will undermine the ban on waste incineration, cause toxic pollution and reduce employment in the recycling sector…”

    “…government agencies and officials are falling for the ruse at great expense to the health of communities and the environment.

    Waste-to-energy schemes cover a broad range of technologies that directly generate energy from burning waste, including gasification, plasma, pyrolysis and mass burn incinerators, some of which have already been issued clearances and permits to operate…”

    EDITOR NOTE–With so many “sources” being linked, we will be editing a little closer in the future. This will be arbitrary, but there are simply too many links being posted. Feel free to quote excerpts, but please don’t link away from the GUARDIAN.

  12. Yzzaguire was re-elected after this, fuzzy.

  13. Fuzzy.. Yzaguirre was re-elected after the Dynamis mess.

  14. Foothills Rider:

    Your reference to Oct 26, 2012 where Modern Columbo wrote: “There is case law out there regarding the relationship of the auxillary use to the principal use. ”

    However that “case law” is not cited. What case law?

    Also quoting Modern Columbo, “Dynamis…selling electricty for its own profit not the profit or benefit to the principal use.”

    Uh, is this fully accurate? Wasn’t the county to make money selling the methane? And therefore reduce the expenses to we the people who use the dump? That was the theory. Why not? Ada County still has excess methane and they’re flaring it off.

    We have been through this before. There was a lot of finger pointing and accusations by the ignorant lynch mob, but nothing came of it, just as I predicted in some comment back then. Meanwhile, we still have excess methane and dump fees and BCUB fees keep going up. Anyone want to bet modern columbo was a Hidden Springs resident? And, I bet they no longer even live at Hidden Springs. Foothills rider is probably a HS resident too and hardly an unbiased source.

    Frankly, not selling the methane to the highest bidder is a failure of the Ada Commissioners to do their job. At least Sharon and the others tried to make a deal. If any one you has proof there was some kind of corruption, which is the insinuation, then have at it. Otherwise you’re nothing but libelous cynics.

  15. It would be interesting to actually hear from a contract law attorney on the topic, but a quick internet search suggests that in a breach of contract suit, the party has to prove harm occurred. Breach of contract where no harm has occurred are rarely if ever supported. If the County never diverted waste to Dynamis that should have contractually gone to Fortistar then it appears there was no harm or loss to Fortistar and maybe Ada County should have fought the suit.

  16. Warm Fuzzy
    Sharon Ullman is running again against Dave Case

  17. Uh— Boise cynic–Sharon Ullman was apparently trying really hard to make a deal as she was engaged to one of the Dynamis engineers at the time and eventually married him. She also bought a new house during this time period.

  18. Boisecynic – Every time Ada Count wants to paint a new bike lane, there are years of meetings.

    Here are some bullet points from the Dynamis scheme…
    -Former hearing clerk: The public didn’t know it was happening
    -Commissioner in 2010: ‘We’ve been working on this for some time’
    -Former clerk believes commissioners skirted open meeting laws
    -Former clerk: ‘A lot of behind-closed-door things’
    -County Operations cut from project, P&Z never consulted
    Sourced: KTVB

    Why was the waste to energy project Dynamis proposed a fraud?
    Dynamis never plainly stated that the scheme was plain old trash incineration, which would never fly once the citizens of the Treasure Valley realized they would be poisoned, and have their cancer rates skyrocket.
    Dynamis used the fancy, nonsense term “Thermal Oxidation or Gasification” (source: Dynamis) to hoodwink the gullible/complicit Commissioners.

    Has anyone pulled the bank records of all involved to see who found a bag of cash on a bus bench when all this was going down?

  19. Foothills Rider
    Mar 31, 2016, 3:16 pm

    My partner thinks Boisecynic is Sharon Ullman playing dumb.

  20. Yossarian_22
    Mar 31, 2016, 4:02 pm

    Bikeboy brings up an interesting observation. The problem is that there is too much organic waste in disposables that are responsible for the gassing off of methane in the first place. In another local publication this WEEK, there is an article pointing out that 53,000 tons of waste is food and that 17,000 tons of that is edible. We are throwing away good food. Some of the problem is the nanny state telling us to throw it away. The other problem is that too many people have never starved enough to consider how valuable food is. The rest of the organic waste is just bio-waste made up of grass clippings and such. And, if we actually kept all the stuff we bought, or recycled it, there would be zero waste to contend with.

  21. Aggrieved Party
    Mar 31, 2016, 7:31 pm

    The common thread between Dynamis and Hidden Hollow Energy is a simple one. Both contracts were potentially first breached by the Ada Commishes.

    Then newly elected Commish Case promoted BOCC actions which ultimately fatally damaged the Dynamis contract. The BOCC’s decision to take a proactive approach pleased many Dynamis detractors but ultimately placed the enforceability of the original contract squarely before the legal system. From a strictly political expediency standpoint, Case made a lot of political hay from his “stand his ground” position, while Ullman ultimately got blamed for the contract’s failure. Neat trick when you realize Ullman was out of office when the breach actions occurred.

    The “post Ullman” breaches left the door open for Dynamis to threaten counterclaims for additional millions in damage flowing from what could have been seen as breach of contract on the part of the County. The BOCC’s decision not to seek the return of the 2 million dollar “loan” was essentially the settlement and liquidated damages which Dynamis Chief C. Lloyd Mahaffey and his pals laughed all the way to the bank with. None of this could have happened without the BOCC believing that the outcome of any litigation could/would have found them culpable for breach of contract.

    Today Commish Tibbs echoed the same logic in support of the decision to settle with HHE. Tibbs did not say how much the BOCC paid for the costs of legal fees on “our behalf”, but it is conceivably equal to HHE’s attorney fees. Total cost in round numbers for this episode of “Dancing With Garbage” appears to be about 3 million.

    How about a bit more proactivity in avoiding such legal entanglements? The current BOCC Commishes deserve no medals for their performance in both the Dynamis and HHE debacles.
    The truly sad part is that just a bit of patience might have avoided any accusation by Dynamis of breach on the part of the BOCC. Once the 2 million County seed money was transferred to Dynamis, the ball was in their court. Dynamis had to produce a viable design which had to convince the Feds to invest in their “waste to watts” project. From what I could see this plan was never going to be completed in time for the Federal deadline, a problem which would have been wholly Dynamis’ owned.

    The BOCC did everything it was supposed to under the development contract (and more) right up until they pulled the plug on the deal and demanded the money back. This action left the BOCC open for liability far greater than the original 2 million and they were left with no choice but to quietly settle (sound familiar?) with Dynamis. Whether or not Dynamis could deliver on its promises became a moot point. It no longer mattered, they had a scapegoat and they made the most of them.

    I also questioned why the Dynamis exit didn’t settle the HHE complaint of breach as the worst case scenario of “not enough swamp gas to go around” did not occur. The bottom line has little to do with the mechanical facts and much more to do with convoluted legal recovery theories which apparently gained enough traction to once again send the BOCC into damage mitigation mode. Studies of futurely available methane production at the landfill suggested that there would be excess gas production regardless of Dynamis’ digesters consuming MSW at any volume considered, but that wasn’t the point! The gas was promised to HHE and anything less could be seen as a breach with a side of lost economic opportunity to boot.

    In simplest terms, any promise of diverting HHE dedicated methane gas availability/production potentially constituted both lack of good faith and breach of the existing “gas to watts” contract with HHE. Did HHE over-react? 2.6 million dollars says they rolled the dice just right.

    After four years of litigation, the Court recently ordered mediation between HHE and the BOCC. At some point the legal counsels for both sides met to compare legal arsenals and the BOCC deciders were convinced to cut a deal.

    There is no question that the romance is over between HHE and Ada County which seems a bit counterproductive on the part of all parties.

    The former contract did generate some positive cash flow to the County and HHE was selling the KW’s at a premium to Idaho Power.

    The real question is why both parties proverbially “cut off their noses to spite their faces”? Or did they? Stay tuned, the next really bad idea is already in the works.

  22. Foothills Rider

    She’s not playing

  23. We Know Better
    Apr 1, 2016, 6:19 am

    Aggrieved Party. Is that you again Sharon? Reads like you. You can’t hide. You should know that the people of the county won’t be fooled again by your brand of dishonest politics and bully tactics. Yes we saw your new website. Everyone is ready and waiting to make sure all the past comes back to bite you. The county is still better off without you, no matter what you say or do.

  24. Aggrieved Party
    Apr 1, 2016, 10:02 am

    We Know Better:
    Disliking Ullman is not a blank check to give a pass to any current Commish. Your conclusions are status quo among many who derived their input solely from mainstream media during the last election cycle. The entire back-story is far more convoluted than the few sound bites which fit the evening news time restrictions.

    The record reflects that the Dynamis decisions were unanimous with Tillman, Yzaguirre and Ullman concurring. Where was your objections to the re-election of Yzaguirre after Dynamis? Again, why the pass for the good ole’ boys?

    Since the Ullman era the current Commishes have engaged in their own brand of bad faith and unfair dealing which has cost taxpayers unnecessarily.

    Where is your outrage at the newest 3 million dollar ransom payment?
    Give your relevant Commish a call and ask for a few minutes of his time. Ask the hard questions of them as well as those of the past. (Don’t be surprised if your wish to visit the ivory tower is not accepted.)

    By the way, unless you are invoking the classic “Royal We” (and speaking strictly for yourself) it would appear that you wish to be seen as representing one or more persons.
    How about “I Know Better” and then support your position with the best facts and understandings you have derived from multiple sources?

    Worrying about the true identity of who any particular commenter is on the BG is non-productive and will only keep you up at night.

    But if it will make you sleep better, I give FRAZ permission to clarify that I am not Ms. Ullman should he chose to do so.

    EDITOR NOTE–I actually thought the writer was indeed Ms Ullman. Even with permission, I don’t know the true identity.

  25. Rod in SE Boise
    Apr 1, 2016, 12:18 pm

    There are only 26 letters in the alphabet. Can’t ANYONE write a press release, website post, or comment thereto and explain what happened?

  26. What difference, at this point, does it make? (Hillary Clinton)

    Everyone deserves a second or third chance to make a multi-million dollar “mistake” with public money. Especially so if they think they are a special person. Good grief, I totally don’t understand you Idaho people getting all wrapped up about this. It’s only a few dollars for each of you! It is status quo in California for the smarter-than-you ruling class to make similar “mistakes”. Gosh darn it! There are some perfectly good super-smart people who were denied their greatness by you stupid Idaho people taking exception to this very typical deal making. And now this damn internet thing won’t let time wash over it. Crap!

  27. Aggrieved Party
    Apr 1, 2016, 8:23 pm

    Being the devil’s advocate has its pitfalls, but I never thought I would be accused of being Ms. Ullman!

    Is the concept of a layperson who actually does due diligence to be able to speak from a position of fair comparison so alien at this point in time?

    My advocacy for the underdog taxpayer did not begin with the BOCC and it definitely preceded the Dynamis debacle by more than a decade…long before Ms. Ullman first appeared on the Ada County radar screen.

    Not everyone is cut out to be a Dave Frazier. Few dare to put their money where their mouth is the way that he has.

    Not wanting to alienate anyone who comments here, but if you aren’t part of the solution you might be part of the problem.

    A friend of mine told me the following story which seems to be apropos at this time: THIS IS A TRUE STORY!

    His ne’er-do-well brother decided to build a “dog eared” cedar fence around his home…asking their Father to assist him in building it. The brother basically “straw-bossed” the fence installation from the comfort of his chaise lounge. At some point the brother retired to enjoy a “cold one” and a well deserved nap leaving Dad to finish nailing the upright slats into position.

    When the sleeping son awoke he went out to observe the results of dear old Dad’s best efforts. To his dismay the slats were literally nailed in totally hodge-podge fashion with no effort made towards any linear continuity. The now fully awake son called his Dad and demanded to know if he knew just how bad the fence looked!!!
    The Father replied: I CAN’T SEE IT FROM MY HOUSE”.

    So the next time a problem occurs which doesn’t appear to really bother you, ask yourself if you “just can’t see it from your house”.

    Advocacy dictates that you at least try to see the problem even if it doesn’t impact you in a way which spurs you to action. If you cannot be an advocate, at least don’t throw rocks at those who try to make a difference.
    Detractors are a dime a dozen.

    Which do you want to be?

  28. Warm Fuzzy Feeling
    Apr 1, 2016, 9:36 pm

    Well then Aggrieved Party, perhaps we should stop the government leaders from using the IRS, NSA, FBI, and all the other divisions of the StaSi from harassing those of us who do dare to keep a closer eye.

    Blaming the consumer is correct in a perfect world, but the corruption runs deep and wide. It’s is in fact organized crime… and it is in fact hazardous to those who dare sniff it out… even in Boise. And it is for this reason the mass media was invented… sigh… it is corrupted too.

    Thank you for your courageous service Editor!

  29. Aggrieved Party – “…if you aren’t part of the solution you might be part of the problem…”

    Your last comment is a word salad of dubious meaning, but I assume you are saying if we the people are not part of the political process, then we can’t bitch.

    I wholeheartedly endorse Warm Fuzzy Feeling saying that our govt is in fact a criminal organization. When I ran for public office, I sounded a lot like Donald Trump, just basically wanting to scrap “the system/status quo” and toss out all the leeches that pretend to represent the people.

    My attempt to attain the political office of Boise City Councilman was terminated by Kevin Ritchert of the Idaho Statesman who deemed me unworthy.

    Only those whose allegiance is pledged to the status quo is allowed into the palaces of power. Those of us who would tear down the Holy Trio of rich folks, politicians, and lapdog / traitor media are demonized. If we accidentally enter the inner sanctum, we are ignored and driven out by the political criminals.

  30. Warm Fuzzy Feeling
    Apr 3, 2016, 4:31 pm

    Reality check for those who discount what I posted:

  31. Aggrieved Party
    Apr 4, 2016, 11:59 am

    J Smith
    IMO, interpretation of being “part of the solution” goes to the heart of personal responsibility.
    Where does the buck truly stop in any discussion of how our system of governance became what it is?
    The blame game may temporarily distract us but it does little to resolve any issue.
    Dave and others have learned the hardest way possible that real change comes about most often either by legislation or promulgation.
    Setting any new legal precedent (promulgation) is an uphill legal battle the entire way and very expensive regardless of the outcome. Even then the Judiciary may not have sufficient law from which to make a decision. (The lack of a definition of “judicial review” effectively ended years of effort to address certain Title 50 statutes regarding the Constitutionality of Urban Renewal. Since that time there have been a number of legislative successes in changes to UR).
    Individuals can and do make a difference.
    Advocacy is largely a thankless task which few want to expose themselves to, but at no time have I ever heard one of these advocates declare that the task at hand should be abandoned or voided because they might fail.
    Almost 106 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt said it best:
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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