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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: EPA

Suction dredging protest contrasts with Boise River agreement in Idaho’s ‘EPA divide’

Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker has a report today on why the Fourth of July holiday protest at which hobby miners ran their suction dredges illegally in the Salmon River east of Riggins to decry EPA regulations didn’t turn into anything like the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada. Part of the reason: Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik and other officials worked to make sure there was no confrontation, and the event drew no uniformed federal agents, armed militia members or national news media.

But Barker reports that event was in great contrast to another in Boise at which longtime EPA critic Rep. Mike Simpson praised the federal agency for “looking outside their rulebook” in developing the Dixie Drain Phosphorous Offset Project, a program to clean phosphorus pollution from the Boise River while also saving money for Boise residents and farmers. You can read his full report here, which is headed, “Idaho’s EPA Divide.”

Idaho taking over water pollution permitting from feds

Despite Idaho’s vaunted distaste for the federal government, it’s one of just four states where getting a permit for dumping pollutants into waterways requires dealing with the federal Environmental Protection Agency instead of the state. That’s changing under a law that quietly cleared the Idaho Legislature without a single opposing vote this year. But the change means Idaho will have to add an estimated 25 employees over the next eight years at the state Department of Environmental Quality – in a GOP-dominated state where lawmakers also spend lots of time about talking about shrinking government.

“I have to suck it up and say yes, it’s worth it,” said former Idaho Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, who pushed persistently for the move during his three terms in the Senate; he’s also a former Post Falls mayor and city administrator. “I think it really does make more sense than letting the feds do it for us. It’s a better way to control our own destiny.” The only other states that currently have the EPA running their wastewater permitting programs are Massachusetts, New Mexico and New Hampshire; you can read my full Sunday story here at

New EPA rule would require Idaho power plants to cut carbon emissions by a third over 15 years

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Obama Administration announced Monday that Idaho will have to cut its carbon pollutants by a third over the next 15 years. The new standard is part of national initiative aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants as high as 40 percent in some states from their 2005 level. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Idaho's power sector emitted 1 million metric tons of carbon in 2012 and produced 4 million megawatt hours of energy. This means that the state's emission rate was about 340 pounds per megawatt hours. The EPA proposed that Idaho reduce its rate to 228 pounds per megawatt hours. Idaho has no coal plants but consumes coal-produced energy from nearby states. According to the EPA, most of Idaho's energy comes from renewable sources.

Suction dredge miners plan July 4 protest on Salmon River

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Idaho County commissioners have sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management asking for guidance concerning a protest planned by suction dredgers upset with federal regulations. “The parties involved wish to respectfully exercise their right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances,” the letter reads. “They have informed us they will be respectful and orderly in this event and are seeking guidance from the BLM for a successful event.”

Robin Boyce, acting manager for the Cottonwood Field Office, said the BLM is working on a response to the event planned on the Salmon River in central Idaho near Riggins around the Fourth of July, the Lewiston Tribune ( reported Tuesday. “We are still trying to figure out how this would work and when and if it is possible on BLM property,” Boyce said. John Crossman of the Southwest Idaho Mining Association of Boise said the dredgers plan to run their equipment in the Salmon River. He said the goal of the protest is to remove the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from the state.

EPA reverses course, rejects Idaho water pollution rule

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho water quality regulators must go back to the drawing board after the federal Environmental Protection Agency rejected a rule that allowed some pollution to be discharged into state waterways without a review. In 2011, the EPA actually approved an Idaho Department of Environmental Quality rule exempting activities such as mining from review in some instances, provided their accompanying water pollution fell below a certain threshold. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition sued, saying that was too lenient, especially in instances where cumulative pollution could eventually so significant harm to aquatic ecosystems. In April, the EPA agreed in federal court in Pocatello to reconsider Idaho's rule. And Tuesday, the agency concluded DEQ's rule went too far in exempting polluting activities from scrutiny and gave the agency several options to remedy the situation.

Simpson moves to slash EPA budget by 35% to pre-1978 levels

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson put forth an appropriations bill today that would slash the EPA’s budget by $2.9 billion next year, a 35 percent cut that would drop the agency to a funding level below what it had in 1978 and block the Obama Administration’s climate change agenda. The Interior and Environment Appropriations bill includes a total of more than $5 billion in cuts, including major cuts to the Forest Service, BLM, national parks and more, but EPA would bear the biggest brunt.

“This Administration’s appetite for new regulations and disregard for the will of Congress have left us with little choice but to block his climate change agenda in this bill,” said Simpson, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. “The actions we’ve taken to address the EPA’s overreach and reduce its budget not only help us meet the tight spending constraints under which we’re operating, they help our struggling economy and encourage job creators to invest and expand.”

Simpson brought his bill to his subcommittee for mark up today, no amendments were offered, and it was approved on a 7-5 party-line vote. It now moves to the full House Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to be taken up next week. Simpson warned that until Congress gets serious about making big changes in the larger, mandatory spending portion of the federal budget – including entitlements – big cuts like these in the discretionary portion of the budget will be required.

“One thing I didn’t hear in all of the comments that were made [from the other side of the aisle] is the fact that we are $17 trillion in debt.  $17 trillion,” Simpson said during the subcommittee meeting. “Now, if you want to talk about leaving a legacy for future generations, let that continue to grow and grow and grow and not have the courage to do anything about it. … We are not doing anything different [in this bill] than state legislatures have been doing for about the last four or five years in trying to address their budget problems.  They’ve made tough and ugly decisions all across the board, but we act here like because we’ve got a printing press we are exempt from making those tough decisions.  We’re not exempt; we’re $17 trillion in debt.” You can read his full news release here on the appropriations bill and what's in it.

Feedlot agrees to pay $42K in fines for polluting Boise River

An Idaho cattle feedlot has reached a settlement with the EPA requiring it to pay $42,000 in fines for discharging pollutants into the Boise River, the AP reports The EPA said in 2011, W/T Land & Cattle, located on the banks of the river near Notus, allowed animal waste to flow into the river during and after flood events without a permit.

EPA Compliance and Enforcement Director Edward Kowalski said in a prepared statement that in high water, animal waste can take several paths to nearby waterways, and feedlot operators located near rivers and streams need to be extra diligent to protect waterways.

EPA fines cement plant operator $2.5 million over air pollution, requires major upgrades

The EPA is imposing a $2.5 million fine on a company that operates cement plants in nine states - including one along I-84 in eastern Oregon whose emissions blow into Idaho with the prevailing winds - for air pollution, and requiring the firm to invest $30 million in pollution controls at its plants. Ash Grove Cement Co.'s penalty was announced Wednesday by the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice, the AP reports, as part of a deal in which the Kansas-based company also will spend $750,000 to mitigate effects of past excess emissions. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller. The EPA said the moves will reduce thousands of tons of harmful pollutants at plants in Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Texas.

EPA issues new suction dredge mining rules, includes closure of Salmon River main stem

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new permit and rules for recreational miners who use small-scale suction dredging equipment to explore for gold in rivers and creeks across Idaho, the AP reports.The new rules include an outright closure on the Salmon River, main stems of the state's biggest rivers and waters passing through all tribal lands. The federal permit — the first of its kind for Idaho — was designed to ensure miners adhered to the Clean Water Act and protect water quality and spawning habitat for salmon, steelhead, bull trout and other species yet still provide opportunities for the hundreds of recreational miners that set up on Idaho's rivers and streams each summer and fall; click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

EPA fines two gas delivery companies for Clean Air Act violations in Idaho

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced thousands of dollars in fines for two gas delivery companies, CityServiceValcon, LLC, and Thomas West Fuels, Lubricants & Chemicals, LLC, for violating federal clean air laws in Idaho, the AP reports. EPA officials say both companies failed to follow mandatory rules for unloading fuel into storage tanks at two gas stations ― one in Lewiston and the other on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in eastern Idaho. Officials say a lack of vapor control systems caused at least 10 tons of volatile organic compounds to escape at the Lewiston station between January 2011 and January 2012. About five tons escaped at the Fort Hall station. CityServiceValcon will pay a $48,000 penalty, while Thomas West Fuels will pay a $45,600 penalty.

U.S. Supreme Court sides with Sacketts

The Supreme Court has sided with an Idaho couple in a property rights case, the Associated Press reports, ruling they can go to court to challenge an Environmental Protection Agency order that blocked construction of their new home and threatened fines of more than $30,000 a day. Wednesday's decision is a victory for Mike and Chantell Sackett, whose property near a scenic lake has sat undisturbed since the EPA ordered a halt in work in 2007. The agency said part of the property was a wetlands that could not disturbed without a permit; click below for a full report from AP reporter Mark Sherman in Washington, D.C.

Risch goes on Lou Dobbs today to discuss Idaho family’s clash with EPA

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch will appear on the Fox Business Network for an interview with Lou Dobbs tonight, discussing government regulations and the case of Mike and Chantell Sackett of North Idaho, who the EPA says are attempting to build their home on a wetland. The interview will air live at 5:25 p.m. Mountain time, 4:25 p.m. Pacific time. The Sacketts bought their Priest Lake-area property for $23,000 in 2005; the 0.6-acre lot on the west side of the lake is surround by several other homes and has a sewer hookup. But when they moved to build a home, the EPA told them their land was a wetland; they've appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which plans to take up their case in January. You can read more about the case here.

Simpson: EPA has ‘run amok,’ is ‘bloated’

Speaking of the EPA, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, newly named chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which oversees funding for the EPA, said of the agency: “The EPA is the scariest agency in the federal government, an agency run amok. Its bloated budget has allowed it to drastically expand its regulatory authority in a way that is hurting our economy and pushing an unwelcomed government further into the lives of Idahoans. As Chairman of this subcommittee, I look forward to bringing some common sense to the EPA and some certainty for our nation’s job creators.” Click below to read his full statement.

Otter faults CdA basin cleanup plan

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:  COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has sent a letter criticizing the federal government’s proposal for the next phase of cleanup in Idaho’s Silver Valley region. Otter sent a letter Monday to the Environmental Protection Agency saying he cannot support the plan unless it ensures cleanup work will not impede existing or future mining in the region. In the letter, reported by the Coeur d’Alene Press, Otter also says the cleanup cannot last forever and urged the EPA to set reasonable and achievable goals. The EPA is taking public comments on its proposal to expand the cleanup of historic mining wastes in the upper Coeur d’Alene River basin. The EPA Director of Environmental Cleanup Dan Opalski says they will consider Otter’s comments and others submitted in the process.

Idaho fish farm faces big EPA pollution fine

An Idaho fish farm in Buhl is facing up to $177,500 in fines for five years of violations of the Clean Water Act, the EPA reports today. The agency said the ARK Fisheries Tunnel Creek operation, which the operator says has capacity to raise up to 275,000 pounds of trout and 80,000 pounds of sturgeon a year, has polluted a tributary of the Snake River. “EPA has provided assistance to ARK Fisheries on numerous occasions over several years to help them comply with their permit,” said Kim Ogle of the EPA in Seattle. “Unfortunately, the Tunnel Creek facility continues a trend of incomplete or late reports, instances of non-reporting, and discharge permit violations.” The agency cited violations from discharging pollutants without a permit for two months in 2005 to failing to submit annual reports for 2008 and 2009 to exceeding permit limits for phosphorus in January of 2010.

Meanwhile, another Idaho business, the John C. Berry & Sons, Inc. oil storage and distribution facility in Idaho Falls, has agreed to pay a $15,000 fine for Clean Water Act violations; that plant is 800 feet from the Snake River.

Subdivision developer faces big fine for damage to North Fork of Payette River

Developers of a Smiths Ferry subdivision are facing fines of up to $125,000 for storm water violations impacting the North Fork of the Payette River, the EPA announced today. The agency said Sal Gallucci, JJS Southwest LLC and Whitehawk Land Development Corp. failed to apply for a construction general permit under the Clean Water Act before building roads at the Whitehawk Subdivision from 2005 to 2009. Inspections in 2008 and 2009 at the 850-acre property showed that storm water contaminated with sediment, sand, dirt and more was washing into the river as a result of the unpermitted construction. “The operators failed to take proper precautions such as stabilizing slopes to prevent discharges,” the EPA said. The Clean Water Act requires storm water permits for developers and general contractors at construction sites larger than one acre; see more info on that here.

“The North Fork of the Payette River is one of Idaho’s gems, and it must be protected,” said Jim Werntz, director of Idaho operations for the EPA. “Developers and contractors need to follow the permit requirements and properly engineer roads within their construction sites so that sediment runoff does not pollute Idaho’s valuable waterways.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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