Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed an executive order Monday creating the latest iteration of the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission, branded LINE 3.0.
The commission will be staffed by many familiar faces, though a number of changes have been made. One of those changes led a local representative who wasn’t reappointed to the commission to cry foul.
In a statement, Otter said the purpose of the new commission remains largely the same.
“We got a lot of value out of LINE 2.0 – a lot that figures to help us sustain and enhance the Idaho National Lab’s mission and its potential as an economic driver for Idaho for many years to come,” Otter said. “I don’t want to lose that kind of momentum. LINE 3.0 will help ensure that we don’t.”
The LINE Commission isn’t a regulatory body, having only advisory authority, but it serves as an important forum for top-level discussions involving nuclear energy, INL and state government.
Former lab director John Grossenbacher will remain on the committee, but current director Mark Peters will replace him as co-chairman. Lt. Gov. Brad Little will continue to serve as the other co-chairman.
Otter also tapped Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, to serve as the House’s representative to the commission. Horman said she has worked with INL officials for 20 years, beginning with her time on local school boards.
“I am humbled by this appointment by the governor and this opportunity to serve,” Horman said. “Over the last two decades, my commitment to the men and women of INL has never wavered.”
Horman, known as an education expert, said she hopes to put particular focus on education and training to address workforce needs at the lab.
“A lot of the most significant issues facing the lab in coming decades are related to workforce and that’s an area of expertise for me,” she said.
Horman was named to the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee in 2017. Horman was also instrumental earlier this year in negotiating a deal that allowed INL to use state financing to build two facilities, one focused on cybersecurity, the other on supercomputing.
The $90 million in local investment isn’t expected to cost state taxpayers anything, since the terms of INL’s lease will ensure that it pays off the bond. INL officials said the project will expand the lab’s cybersecurity mission and provide educational and research opportunities in partnership with the state’s universities.
Horman replaces Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, who has served on the last two versions of the LINE commission. Thompson reacted angrily to the news Tuesday, attacking Horman and the new commission.
“LINE 2.0 was a valuable entity, but by putting a legislator on there without any energy experience, it diminishes the validity of the entire commission,” Thompson said.
Horman declined to respond to Thompson’s comment.
Thompson served as the chairman of the of the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee for two years, though last year he was replaced by Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, and made the vice-chairman. He noted that he also serves on energy committees with the National Conference of State Legislatures and recently toured a nuclear facility in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Otter didn’t discuss Thompson’s ouster in a statement, but Thompson was one of 30 lawmakers who sued Otter earlier this year over his veto of the grocery tax repeal.
On the Senate side, Sen. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, will also serve on the commission, as will Butte County Commissioner Rose Bernal.
House Speaker Scott Bedke will continue with the commission. He was previously a non-voting ad hoc member of the commission, but in LINE 3.0 he will have voting rights.
“I look forward to serving on the commission and to do everything we can to make sure INL’s mission is meaningful and a growing concern in the eastern part of the state,” Bedke said.
Other appointees include Mayor Rebecca Casper, Center for Advanced Energy Studies director Noël Bakhtian, University of Idaho vice president Janet Nelson, Boise State University vice president Mark Rudin, Idaho State University vice president Cornelis Van der Schyf, U.S. Ecology CEO Jeff Feeler, International Isotopes CEO Steve Laflin, Department of Commerce director Megan Ronk, Department of Environmental Quality director John Tippets and Sam Eaton, Otter’s legal council.
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes will be represented by either Marcus Coby or Talia Martin, and either Attorney General Lawrence Wasden or a designated representative of his office will also serve on the commission.
The new commission is formed at a time when there have been mounting calls to revisit the specifics of the 1995 Settlement Agreement. Because the Department of Energy has been unable to meet certain cleanup milestones, INL has been blocked from importing small quantities of spent nuclear fuel for research purposes. Lab officials have said the ongoing blockage endangers some of the lab’s key missions.
LINE 3.0 will have its first meeting Oct. 4 in Twin Falls.