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Posts tagged: Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

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 spokesman.com.

Statewide Stage 1 air quality alert issued…

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has issued a statewide Stage 1 air quality alert, banning open burning all through the state. It's in effect through the weekend; conditions will be re-evaluated Monday morning on a county-by-county basis. The ban includes campfires, recreational, warming, weed control, cooking, and residential fires. “Air quality is generally in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups to Unhealthy categories throughout the central and southern parts of the state,” said DEQ Smoke Management Program Coordinator Mary Anderson. “Air quality in the northern Idaho Panhandle is forecasted to be in the good to moderate range; however, stagnant conditions will likely cause smoke from open burning to remain at ground level.” Click below for the full alert from DEQ.

Curt Fransen named new DEQ director

Curt Fransen, deputy director of the Idaho DEQ since 2007, has been named the agency's director by Gov. Butch Otter. Current Director Toni Hardesty is leaving this week to become the Idaho director of the Nature Conservancy; Otter praised Hardesty as he named Fransen to the post.

“One of the best measures of Toni’s effectiveness as director is the quality of the team she’s built at DEQ, and Curt is ‘Exhibit A,’ ” the governor said in a statement.  “Along with Director Hardesty, he’s helped establish a high level of respect for the agency with industry, the environmental community and federal regulators.”

Fransen is an attorney who started with the state as a deputy attorney general in 1983, and moved to Coeur d’Alene in 1997 to represent a number of state agencies on mining cleanup and other North Idaho natural resources issues; he became DEQ’s deputy director in 2007. Fransen said, “I appreciate the support of Gov. Otter and look forward to maintaining and advancing the high standards established at the Department of Environmental Quality by Director Toni Hardesty.” Click below for Otter's full announcement.
  

DEQ cuts amount to quarter of its budget…

Idaho's Department of Environmental Quality has lost a quarter of its budget  to cuts since the recession began, AP reporter John Miller reports, and it's part of a national trend that's seeing conservation programs and environmental regulations pared back significantly as states grapple with budget deficits. Miller reports that because environmental programs are just a sliver of most state budgets, the cuts often go without much public notice, while more attention is focused on larger reductions in Medicaid, public education or prisons. Click below for his full report.

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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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