Sample Projects

A Sampling of Power Consulting Projects

Power Consulting has worked on a wide variety of projects over the last 30 years. Here we highlight eight from the last decade to provide an indication of the breadth and character of our consulting services.

    • Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. January 2022: We worked with Wild Earth Guardians to help influence the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as it adopted new rules and regulation for oil and gas wells. We helped to argue that blanket bonding was a danger for the state of Colorado because there are currently hundreds of thousands of idle and non-producing wells that no one is being asked to clean up that are bonded far below market costs to clean them up.
    • Ambler Access Road. May 2021: We worked with the National Parks Conservation Association to analyze the economic impacts of a very long mining access road that has been proposed in rural Alaska to reach several different ore deposits. The mining companies involved are effectively asking for very large subsidies that approaches, and may exceed, $1 billion. The mining companies are unlikely to be able to pay the state of Alaska back for the cost of the road. “Economic Impacts of the Proposed Ambler Access Road.”
    • Metal Mining in AK. March 2021:  We worked with a local group to try and influence the government of Alaska to not purposely become more economically reliant on metal mining. The state of Alaska has been dependent on oil to a degree that has proven to be unsustainable. With declining oil production and recent dramatic changes in the price of oil, there has been pressure on the state government try to “fill the gap” left by declining petroleum production by pivoting towards metal mining. At the time, the state government was in a fiscal crisis because of the decline in tax revenue from declining oil production and was hoping metal mining could help fill in that “fiscal hole.” “The Role of Metal Mining in the Present and Future Alaskan Economy” Prepared for the Cook Inlet keepers.
    • Resolution Copper. 2013-2022: We worked with the San Carlos Apache Tribe and its allies to oppose the proposed Resolution Copper Mine. This has been a true epic saga that we have been involved in for many years producing multiple reports: It has featured a congressional land swap hidden in a congressional budget bill, a mine that is more than a mile underground that will have to be automated and operated by robots because of the high temperatures due to the mine’s depth, and cultural resources that will be permanently destroyed; in addition, the mine will require massive amounts of water that will have to be obtained within the already over allocated desert southwest just outside of Phoenix that cannot provide massive amounts of water to the mining sector. All of these added up to a losing economic proposal.–revenues-224907952.html
    • The Impact of the Loss of Power Generation at Glen Canyon Dam. 2016: We worked with the Glen Canyon Institute to quantify the impact of the loss of hydro power at Glen Canyon Dam and the implications of a ‘Fill Meade First’ strategy. Very challenging competing policy issues required technical modeling efforts looking at power generation, water loss, and economic impacts. Water shortages and growing water demand became a trending news story. During the spring of 2022, we spoke with multiple reporters who were puzzling through the implications of the ongoing Western drought. We are currently fielding more calls from reporters as the west becomes drier, the Lower Basin States are curtailing water deliveries, and soon the dams may not be able to provide reliable hydro power.
    • Coal Ports. 2010-2018: We worked with Earth Justice, and a large number of local citizen groups, to help reject a series of proposed coal ports up and down the west coast of the U.S. By arguing that the coal ports would allow cheaper coal into Asian markets and increase the amount of coal consumed and therefore the greenhouse gases released, we were able to help moderate the rush to export coal. Ultimately, none of the proposed new coal ports survived NEPA scrutiny. We successfully demonstrated that since the proponents of these multiple coal ports had not considered the increased greenhouse gases associated with those exports in their Environmental Impact Statements, those EISs had to either be redone or thrown out. This was a multi-year, multi-port process that was ultimately successful in making sure that no new coal export ports were built in the U.S. on the west coast.
    •  Northwestern Energy. 2008-2021: We have worked continuously with Northwest Energy (NWE), the primary Investor-Owned electric and natural gas utility serving Montana to help them analyze their energy supply portfolios. As consultants for District XI Human Resources Council, which is a small non-profit that advocates for affordable housing and energy for low-income people in the Missoula area, we had a seat at the table for many of the energy decisions that NWE made and the response to those decisions by the Montana Public Service Commission. We have been deeply involved in the Montana Public Service Commission rate cases involving NWE and helped to encourage NWE to diversify their generation resources, invest more in renewable resources, and move away from fossil fuel-fired generation. 
    • Missoula Water. 2014-2021: The city of Missoula successfully used eminent domain to purchase the city of Missoula’s municipal water system from the private equity firm, Carlyle Group. We helped the city successfully argue that it was in the best interest of the city to own its own water. Central to that case was how to estimate a fair price for the municipal water system, which we helped to establish. The case has continued now for several years as the cost of the case are sorted out and cost-responsibilities are assigned to different parties.
    • Pebble Mine. 2014-2019: We were initially hired by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association in 2014. In that study, which was used as a comment in the NEPA process, we compared the seafood industry, recreation-tourism salmon industry and subsistence economies of Native Alaska to the economic potential for copper mining in the Bristol Bay headwaters where the mine would be located. Later that year, President Obama took the mine off the table. Then, in 2018, the Trump administration put the Pebble mine back on the table. Although the size of the mine had changed so that it would stay under a critical NEPA thresholds, it was essentially the same mine being proposed under a more favorable administration (for mining). We were then hired by the Alaska Inletkeepers to make public comments on the 2018 DEIS. Using IMPLAN, the size of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, local subsistence hunting, and the tourism industry, which is mostly associated with sport fishing, we were again able to show Pebble would be a costly economic bet. We produced a new report for the second round and that report was again submitted as a comment during the NEPA process and spoke to the inadequacies of the socio-economic section of the proposed Pebble Mine Environmental Impact Statements. Recently the proposed Pebble Mine has been taken back off the table again.
    • Amenity-Supported Local Economic Vitality and the Apostle Islands and Picture Rocks National Lakeshores on Lake Superior
      • Client: National Park Service, 2007-2009

The National Park system was expanded in the 1960s partly to provide an economic stimulus to relatively depressed isolated rural areas that had national-class natural landscapes that might anchor a visitor-economy. This created a tension between the National Park Service’s commitment to preservation while also promoting visitation and use. When, in the early 2000s, two National Park Units on Lake Superior proposed additional protection for parts of the parks by adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System, some local interests again saw a conflict between the local economic role of the National Parks and efforts at preservation. This project carefully reviewed the history of these two parks, the historical role they have played in the local economy, quantified the current economic impact they were having, and discussed future trends in the local economies and the roles of the National Parks in those economic trends.  [Report is being edited for publication.]

  • Estimating and Sharing the Site Rental Value Associated with Hydroelectric Facilities
    • Clients: Five American Indian Tribes and a state government, 2000-2009

Electric utilities make use of unique geographic locations along rivers to locate dams, generating facilities, and storage reservoirs. Often electric utility facilities are located on land owned by Indian tribes, state governments, or the federal government. That raises the question of the appropriate sharing of the benefits associated with the use of that particular site to generate electricity. The benefits (the site rental values) have to be accurately calculated and then a rational scheme for sharing those benefits among the various land and facilities owners has to be developed. Power Consulting has assisted tribal and state governments in this type of analysis. [Reports proprietary.]

  • The Economic Role of Metal Mining in Minnesota: Past, Present, and Future
    • Client: Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy & The Sierra Club, 2007

Mining offers among the highest paid blue collar jobs available and often also makes substantial payments to state and local governments. At the same time mining is landscape intensive, often leaving behind damaged landscapes that cannot be completely repaired. Mining can also be disruptive to communities because of its “boom and bust” character and the ongoing deployment of labor- displacing technologies. Because it offers both substantial monetary benefits and the risk of substantial environment risk and social disruption, a critical review of both benefits and costs is appropriate as a prelude to public policy decisions about the regulation and siting of mining operations. Power Consulting has provided analysis of this sort to a broad variety of communities across the United States.

  • Economic Realities in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests [Oregon]: Possibilities for Economic Expansion and Diversification
    • Client:  The Tillamook Rainforest Coalition, 2003

Natural forests have historically provided valuable building and packaging materials and relatively well-paid jobs in the Pacific Northwest. As the economy and residential living patterns have changed, natural forests have also become important as the source of valuable environmental services including wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, watersheds and water supplies, open space, and scenic beauty. Good public forestry policy requires the weighing and balancing of all of the benefits and costs as a rational forest plan is developed. It is likely that at some sites, with appropriate harvest techniques, commercial timber harvest will provide the greatest net benefits while at other sites non-commercial considerations will dominate. Careful analysis is required for this determination.

  • Digging to Development? A Historical Look at Mining and Economic Development (2002)
  • Metals Mining and Sustainable Development in Central America: An Assessment of Benefits and Costs (2008)
    • Client:  Oxfam America

The development of mineral resources for export is often presented as the most reliable way for developing countries to trigger an ongoing process of economic development. The historical experiences of the United States, Canada, and Australia in the early stages of their industrialization are often offered as models for this type of mineral-driven economic development. At the same time, the economic performance of mineral-exporting countries over the last half-century does not appear to offer much support for this strategy. Power consulting was asked to critically explore the historical experiences of these now-developed countries as well as the contemporary experience of economies specialized in mineral development and export for lessons on how to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs associated with mineral development.

  • The Economic Impact of the Proposed Maine Woods National Park & Preserve
    • Client: RESTORE: The North Woods, 2001

Northern Maine has become a relatively depressed area as lumber and pulp mills have shutdown and employment in forest products has tumbled. This contrasts with the ongoing economic vitality of southern and coastal Maine. The ongoing sale and resale of Maine’s extensive private timber lands among various forest real estate companies has left many in Maine nervous about the future of its northern forestlands. Division of those forest, river, and lake lands for resort and summer home development seems inevitable. One proposal that seeks to stimulate economic diversification and renewed economic vitality while also protecting the integrity of those natural landscapes is to create a large Maine Woods National Park & Preserve in north-central Maine.  This proposal has sparked considerable controversy. Power Consulting was asked to critically explore the likely impacts of such a National Park on the economies of northern Maine.

  • The Economic Consequences of River and Wetland Restoration: A Conceptual Manual
    • Client: United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1998

The conceptual basis for local economic impact analysis was laid out in the early 1950s. The implementation of federal and state laws requiring environmental impact statements created a “cottage industry” for economic consulting firms to generate local economic impact studies following that mid-20th century formula. That approach has two fatal flaws. First, it focuses only on commercial benefits and costs, ignoring the role of environmental services within the economy and their contribution to local economic well-being and vitality. Second, it assumes a “dumb,” non-adaptable economy, the opposite of the primary virtues most economists see in a market economy. Conceptually correct local economic analysis requires a much broader approach to local economic analysis than the ubiquitous economic base approach that is regularly deployed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked Power Consulting and ECONorthwest to layout the conceptual approach to such local economic analysis that contemporary economics would support.

  • Electric Utility Resource Planning
    • Clients: Montana Power Company, NorthWestern Energy, 1988-2009

Inadequate electric utility planning in the 1970s led to the initiation of the construction of many coal-fired and nuclear generating facilities that ultimately the market for electricity would not support. Many of those facilities were abandoned after partial construction while others were completed but burdened their owners with massive financial losses. That experience led to the development of more analytical planning tools that came to be known as “Integrated Resource Planning.” For over 30 years Power Consulting has assisted utilities, utility regulators, and consumer groups in utility resource planning, cost analysis, and rate design, including a contemporary focus on energy efficiency, integration of renewable resources, and the implications of carbon regulation. Dr. Power helped initiate and then served on the Integrated Resource Planning Committee of the Montana Power Company through the 1990s and the NorthWestern Energy Technical Advisory Committee through the first decade of the 2000s.