February 6, 2012 in Idaho

Lawmaker wants to boot EPA out of Silver Valley

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - An Idaho lawmaker says the Silver Valley is clean enough, and she wants the EPA to end its Coeur d’Alene Basin cleanup, rescind its Superfund designation and get out of the valley within five years.

“We feel in the Silver Valley it’s time for the EPA to move out of the valley and to remove the taint of being a Superfund site,” freshman Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, told the House Environment Committee on Monday. “By their own admissions blood-lead testing of local residents have proven that the hazard is gone if it even existed. Also with the way technology is growing by leaps and bounds, we feel that the cleanup should be wrapped up.”

McMillan’s non-binding resolution would tell Congress that Idaho wants EPA out, because any further cleanup in the basin “would have a devastating effect upon our mining industry.”

The committee voted to introduce the measure, but there were two “no” votes and one abstention. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, noted that the state has no power to overrule the EPA on environmental cleanup. The only way to do that, he noted, is if the state had rules that were equal to or more stringent than the federal agency’s. “Then EPA would back off and let Idaho do the jurisdiction, but then Idaho would have to pick up the bill,” he said.

The EPA is in the midst of a cleanup of a century’s worth of mining contamination in the Coeur d’Alene Basin; the final Record of Decision detailing its cleanup plan for the upper basin is expected to be out in late February or early March.

Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, spoke out in favor of McMillan’s resolution, which is similar to one she introduced last year, HCR 17, that never proceeded to a full hearing.

“The new ROD that the EPA has come out with, they wanted to be there 100 years, and we’re trying to negotiate it down,” Harwood said. “I can tell you that the Silver Valley will not survive another 100 years with the EPA ruling the way they are doing in the Silver Valley.”

EPA officials had no comment on the measure.

Democratic Reps. Brian Cronin of Boise and Elaine Smith of Pocatello voted against introducing it; Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, abstained because his work includes Superfund issues in eastern Idaho.

Last year, when the measure was McMillan’s first bill, she said it really was from her son, Wallace attorney James McMillan, and she left it to him to explain it to a House committee. “He was the one that wrote it,” she said. James McMillan told lawmakers last year that enough cleanup has been done in the Silver Valley, and, “We need to tell them that this needs to stop.”

Asked why she’s bringing it back, McMillan told The Spokesman-Review, “Because we didn’t get anywheres with it last year. We still need to address the EPA issue.”

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