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New West Daily Roundup for Mar. 9, 2016

Today in New West news: Vivint Solar calls off merger with SunEdison Inc., Montana Artesian Water Co. plans plant along Flathead River, and Denver among worst for mobile performance in U.S.

Vivint Solar, a Lehi, Utah-based solar company, was set to undertake a $2.2 billion merger with Saint Peters, Missouri-based SunEdison Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal proposed last July. Although the deal was criticized by hedge funds and investors, especially as SunEdison’s share prices declined, it was still set to go on. Now, according to Reuters, the deal is off entirely—and Vivint is prepared to sue:

Vivint said it intended to “seek all legal remedies available” as a result of the “willful breach” of the merger agreement by SunEdison.

“We believe both companies will be better off on their own,” Cowen and Co analysts wrote in a note to clients, noting that U.S. lawmakers had extended solar investment tax credits beyond 2016, breathing new life into the industry.

The Vivint deal was set to expire on March 18, the analysts said, adding that SunEdison could be liable for an amount “well above” the breakup fee of $34 million following a court hearing or likely settlement.

SunEdison was not immediately available for comment.

Like other solar companies, SunEdison has been hit by the drop in oil prices but it has also faced criticism for trying to grow too quickly through acquisitions that it could not afford.

The company, which has a market value of about $600 million, had long-term debt of $9.77 billion as of Sept. 30. SunEdison said on March 1 that it would delay filing its annual report, citing an internal investigation into its financial position

Up in Montana, according to the Flathead Beacon, Montana Artesian Water Co., a water bottling company, has proposed a plant outside Creston (just east of Kalispell) on a slough along the Flathead River. Indeed, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation issued a preliminary water rights permit to the company in January, which would allow it to draw up to 231.5 million gallons per year from a single well. The Beacon speculates the plant could realistically produce up to 191.6 million gallons of bottled groundwater, all coming from the aquifer.

Although the company has not released any information regarding the size of the plant or how many employees it will have as the permitting process goes along, Lew Weaver (who owns the farm where the company wants to build the plant) told the Beacon he and the company are waiting to see how the regulatory process pans out. From the Beacon:

The volume would allow the company to bottle, ship and sell up to 191.6 million gallons of treated groundwater per year – the equivalent of 2 billion 12-ounce water bottles – while the rest would be reserved for rinsing bottles and equipment, as well as for on-site tap water.

The proposal has prompted an outpouring of concern from conservation groups, nearby residents and at least one state senator, who contend that the scope of the project warrants a more in-depth environmental assessment by state agencies than it has received so far.

The proposal calls for appropriations of up to 450 gallons of water per minute, and up to 710.53 acre-feet per year, and critics say the proposed water withdrawal and drawdowns could affect their private wells.

DNRC officials say the review of the water rights permit application found the plant would cause “no adverse impacts” to other water rights owners in the area, and that the owners of 38 water rights in the proposed area were notified of the decision, triggering an objection period.

The application is nearing the end of the objection period, however, and objectors have until March 11 to file an objection form. Water rights holders who believe the project would have an adverse effect on their wells can download the form at the agency’s website at

Montana DNRC Director John Tubbs said that under Montana statute, the agency is constrained by narrow parameters and can only deny a permit if the amount of legally available water is inadequate, or if the permit would adversely affect a water rights holder.

“We are hearing from constituents who are concerned about this project, but most of the concerns are not associated with water rights, but rather with traffic patterns, dust from the roads and other issues that we don’t have authority over,” Tubbs said.

Finally, according to the Denver Business Journal, the Mile High City may be first or near the top in a lot of categories, but it’s resolutely near the bottom of the heap when it comes to mobile performance across US. metros. Citing a study by RootMetrics, the DBJ reports Denver ranks 121st in the nation (out of 125) in terms of its mobile coverage. The study gauged overall performance, reliability, speed, data performance, call performance, and text performance. From the DBJ:

“[Denver’s] low ranking can be attributed in part to lower-than-average performance in network speed and data performance, and in part to the fact that the larger carriers did less well relative to their other markets,” said Annette Hamilton, an analyst with RootMetrics. “When both data speeds and network speeds appear to be areas of challenge, typically that points to factors such as network congestion or interference.”

Based on the report criteria, RootMetrics determined that Atlanta had the best mobile network performance and Chicago had the next best.

Colorado Springs, CO fared slightly better, coming in at 113rd place. Boise, ID came in at 111th. Of all the New West states, Utah had the best showing, with Ogden coming in at 23rd, beating out cities like Detroit, Miami, and Seattle, among many others.

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