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Concerns raised over power costs for NSA center

Posted - Jul. 10, 2009 at 6:01 p.m.



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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- It may provide lots of jobs, but who's going to pay for the power needs at the proposed National Security Agency data center? An electricity ratepayer advocate says Utah taxpayers should be on alert.

The million square foot data center, proposed at Camp Williams, is expected to require about 65 megawatts of electricity. It's about the same as other large employers like Kennecott or Nucor Steel.

Alan Rindlisbacher, with Layton Construction, said, "We see that it would become one of the largest power users because of the high demand of power for the services they provide."

Rocky Mountain Power says it's going to take a lot of work and planning to accommodate the center's needs, including new power lines and a substation.

The question is: Who pays for that? The Utah Ratepayers Association's Roger Ball is concerned about behind the scenes "deal making."

He says, "The problem is politicians who are too inclined to give the utilities what they want at the expense of ratepayers."

He says he hopes the NSA will pay a power rate high enough to prevent other Rocky Mountain Power customers from getting stuck with a higher bill.

"The potential is for a huge impact on rates. The NSA should pay a rate for its electricity which will cover those costs, and that there should be no burden for other PacifiCorp customers," he said.

Ball claims companies like MagCorp is an example. He describes a sweetheart deal the company got years ago. Ball says that deal forces other rate payers--in other words, you--to allow the company to keep paying far below the true cost of providing power there.

Ball tells KSL Newsradio he's concerned political leaders in the state will be so excited to bring the facility here that they'll put pressure on regulators to approve the deal regardless of how it affects others.

Power company and regulatory officials declined to comment on camera Friday, but rigorously defend the integrity of the process.

NSA will pay its own light bill, one of them said. And, almost everyone points out the economic development opportunity the project represents.

James Wood, with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said, "It will really have an enormous impact, and it couldn't come at a better time."

Ball says he merely wants the public to be aware of things that have happened in the past, and that he says it can happen again if the public isn't watching.

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Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Randall Jeppesen.

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