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Lower Valley Energy CEO discusses current projects at UAMPS Conference

Lower Valley Energy CEO Jim Webb discussed a natural gas pipeline project the company is working on at the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) Member Conference Monday morning.

He says Lower Valley Energy got into the natural gas business in 1997 in Jackson and Afton. He talked about the unique challenges his company faces being so isolated. There are not a lot of pipes, so they started originally by trucking in natural gas.

“As the system grew we built a natural gas pipeline into Jackson,” Webb said. “We’re in the process of building one to Afton right now. We’re in the permitting process.”

He says they are growing as fast as they can, but he says it is going very well. He also says they’re building a new transmission line into the area from Soda Springs, Idaho. It is a 24 mile line.

“It started about ten to 15 years ago with the permitting,” Webb said. “Nothing’s easy these days and so it’s taken a long time to get started.”

He said that once they were able to get started, it is going very fast. He said the project will cost about $60 million.

“We should be energized this October,” Webb said. “We’re excited about that.”

He also discussed the storm that knocked out 17 power poles in Teton Village this last winter. He said they received help from neighboring utilities companies including Idaho Falls.

He says they were able to get a temporary line back up in five days. He says when the transmission line went down several people approached his company about building it underground.

“Of course it’s very expensive to put in underground transmission,” Webb said. “With the help of our board who decided it was going to take about $2 million to replace that line anyway they allowed us to use that money.”

He says they got money from FEMA and members paying premiums on their rates as well to complete that project.

“I think in an investor-owned world that might not have happened,” Webb said. “Because we are public power, we work closely with our members and we made that happen.”

Other things he noted from the conference he said the company sold about 800 million kilowatt hours of electricity. About 50 million of that is green power. He said it is voluntary, but it is becoming quite popular.