SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah officials are moving to exempt the National Security Agency from a new state law that could tax the energy used by the agency's new data center in Bluffdale.
Rick Mayfield, director of the Utah Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA), said his staff recently learned that when former Gov. Jon Huntsman tried to lure the data center to Utah, he pledged the state would not raise electric rates on the facility for at least six years.
Mayfield told The Salt Lake Tribune that MIDA had not planned to impose the tax on the data center in the coming year, but that apparently didn't soothe the NSA.
Attorneys for his agency and the NSA are discussing revisions to the law that would be considered by the Legislature next year. The law was enacted in March.
"We think what's going to happen is there will be proposed legislation that will exempt the (data center) from this tax," Mayfield told the Tribune. "What we didn't understand was the prior administration made a promise that for six years there wouldn't be an increase" in electricity rates.
MIDA attorney Paul Morris said he informed the NSA of the bill before it received a hearing in the Legislature, but the country's top electronic spy agency did not take notice until after Gov. Gary Herbert signed it.
An NSA spokeswoman declined to comment. Huntsman did not respond to requests for comment.
Harvey Davis, NSA director of installations and logistics, wrote in an April email to Herbert that the bill ran counter to what the federal agency expected.
"The long and short of it is: Long-term stability in the utility rates was a major factor in Utah being selected as our site for our $1.5 billion construction at Camp Williams," Davis wrote.
The data center, expected to be in operation by October, has gained attention since former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden began leaking classified documents related to NSA information gathering. The center is expected to store some of the telephone, Internet and email data gathered by the agency.
The center is estimated to have an annual power bill of $18 million, and the tax can go as high as 6 percent.