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Batt Threatens To Veto Bill Easing Pollution Controls

In what would be his first major confrontation with the Republican-dominated Legislature, GOP Gov. Phil Batt on Wednesday signaled a possible veto of legislation protecting industries from retaliation if they voluntarily disclose environmental violations.

“We don’t want regulatory agencies and enforcement agencies interpreting the rules in a punitive fashion,” Batt told the Idaho Press Club. But he said he would have “trouble accepting blanket immunity.”

The Senate-approved bill, which easily cleared the House Environmental Affairs Committee late Wednesday, also would exempt from public disclosure so-called environmental audits conducted voluntarily and voluntary disclosure of information to state regulators.

“We should do everything we can to keep public records open to the public,” Batt said.

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, which proposed the bill, maintains it will increase compliance with environmental regulations by providing an incentive - immunity from civil or criminal penalties.

But critics contend the bill, now just one vote away from Batt’s desk, is little more than a license to pollute.