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Idaho telephone companies appeal judge’s ruling tossing out lawsuit against state

A consortium of Idaho telephone companies is asking the state’s highest court to revive its lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Administration, Qwest Communications Co. and others.

The consortium Syringa Networks sued the state in 2009 claiming the Department of Administration illegally handed Qwest a $60 million contract to install the broadband infrastructure for the Idaho Education Network, a project to link public schools, universities and businesses in Idaho.

But last month Ada County 4th District Judge Patrick Owen dismissed Syringa’s lawsuit, finding in part that the consortium failed to file an administrative appeal of the state’s contract decision before it sued.

Now Syringa Networks is asking the Idaho Supreme Court to decide if it was legally required to exhaust all administrative remedies before turning to the courts.

The Associated Press

Study ranks Idaho as fifth in nation for cellular-only households

A report by the Centers for Disease Control issued Wednesday shows 31.7 percent of Idaho households are wireless only, compared to a 27.5 percent national average.

The survey shows the wireless-only trend is growing, up 10 percent compared from 2007 when nearly 20 percent of Idaho homes lacked a land line.

Idaho trails Arizona, with 35 percent of homes with wireless phones only, followed by Mississippi, Texas and North Dakota.

The survey relied on data from the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the CDC and the American Community Survey.

The study also found that more than 37 percent of Idaho children live in wireless-only households, ranking Idaho fifth nationally.

The Associated Press 

Activist group sues Idaho mine over pollution

An environmental group sued owners of an Idaho mine in federal court, saying they’re violating the Clean Water Act by discharging illegal levels of arsenic into a Boise River tributary.

The Idaho Conservation League said Monday that Canadian-based Atlanta Gold Inc. has never complied with a 2009 Environmental Protection Agency permit governing discharges from its property.

It’s an old problem, with records showing arsenic-laden water flowing from the mine opening decades before Atlanta began exploring here in the mid-1990s.

The Idaho Conservation League sued Atlanta Gold in 2005, alleging illegal discharges but settling the claim after Atlanta agreed to remedy the situation.

ICL activist Justin Hayes says that hasn’t happened, so his group sued again.

Atlanta Gold Chief Executive Officer Bill Baird in Toronto had yet to see the complaint.

The Associated Press

Idaho approves temporary rules governing gas operation, hydraulic fracking

Idaho officials approved temporary rules governing a small gas drilling operation and its plan to use hydraulic fracturing to tap energy western Idaho energy deposits, agreeing they adequately safeguard for the region’s groundwater.

The Idaho Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, which includes Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, unanimously approved the rules Tuesday.

They allow four wells per square mile, more than the standard of just a single well; and set parameters for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” where pressurized liquids trigger the flow of natural gas.

That’s been blamed for water pollution elsewhere, but Bridge Energy says its proposal is modest compared to what’s happening in different types of gas deposits.

The Idaho Conservation League failed to win support for an amendment that would have forbidden the use of cancer-causing liquids.

The Associated Press

Idaho Falls woman gets jail time for stealing from employer

A judge has ordered an Idaho Falls woman to spend 30 days in jail and serve five years of probation for stealing more than thousands of dollars during her employment with a well drilling company.

Margot Stewart must serve her 30 days in jail within one year for her conviction of felony grand theft. Prosecutors charged her with embezzling from Andrew Well Drilling Inc. while serving as the company’s bookkeeper.

Stewart apologized for her actions in 7th District Court April 18.

The sentence imposed by Judge Joel Tingey also requires Stewart to pay a $250 fine and serve 100 hours of community service.

Company President Roger Buchanan testified April 18 that an audit by an investigators showed Stewart used company credit cards for personal expenses, including food, televisions and embroidery machines.

The Associated Press

Idaho alt energy firms get rebate guidance

Alternative energy developers with projects nearing completion got some guidance from Idaho tax collectors who say they don’t have to take delivery of gear before June 30to claim a lucrative-but-expiring sales tax break.

Earlier this month, Idaho state senators rejected extending the break, despite intense lobbying from the wind industry that’s benefited since the rebate was passed in 2005.

But April 18, state tax commissioners said a buyer of energy-generating equipment must take title before July 1 to qualify, but doesn’t have to be in possession of the equipment to claim the break.

This might be helpful to some developers, since it gives them until the very end of the rebate to finalize transactions.

However, sales taxes would have to be paid within 20 days to then be rebated.

The Associated Press

Middleton woman gets probation for taking money from nonprofit agency over four-year period

A 31-year-old Middleton woman has been sentenced for her role in stealing $177,000 from a nonprofit agency that operates drug and alcohol treatment centers.

Bobbi A. George was ordered to serve five years of probation for wire fraud and pay more than $230,000 in restitution to the Port of Hope Centers office in Nampa. George must also serve six weekends in jail, eight months of home detention and perform 100 hours of community service.

George’s mother, 55-year-old Connie Stills, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud for her role in the scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

George and Stills each worked for Port of Hope, and prosecutors alleged they diverted money between 2004 and 2008 from the non-profit’s account to George’s personal credit card and banking account.

The Associated Press

 Idaho National Laboratory to lay off tank armor makers because of decreased Army demand

Idaho National Laboratory officials say about 50 of the lab’s armor-making workers will be laid off by September 2012 because the U.S. Army doesn’t need as much tank armor.

INL’s human resources director Mark Holubar told the Post Register that the laboratory will continue making armor for the Abrams tanks, but the Army isn’t ordering as much of it.

Deputy Laboratory Director for Management Juan Alvarez says more layoffs across the laboratory may come. Alvarez says the current fiscal mood among lawmakers means the lab will have to do more with less, and that means personnel cuts may be necessary.


Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com

The Associated Press 

About Anne Wallace Allen

Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.

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