BOISE – Idaho’s House of Representatives has dumped a bill that attempted to nullify the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority in the state, acknowledging the bill is likely unconstitutional.
The bill, however, “shows the level of frustration that many of our constituents have and feel about not only the EPA but many of the federal agencies as well,” said House Resources Committee Chairman Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale.
Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, proposed the bill after hearing concerns from suction dredge miners in his area who have been required to get a new EPA permit since last spring. The agency said it didn’t want to ban the practice in Idaho, as has happened in Oregon and California, and instead sought to regulate it to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. More than 80 of the new five-year permits have been issued.
But the new EPA permit system doesn’t allow suction dredge mining in areas that include critical habitat for endangered fish, including formerly popular stretches of the Salmon River near Riggins.
Shepherd told the House on Tuesday, “I was warned I better be prepared about the legal problems with this bill, because if we’re going to try and have state authority over federal authority, we’ve run into problems with that before.”
Denney said local government officials, including a local sheriff, weren’t consulted when the EPA began requiring a new permit in the Riggins area last spring. “Perhaps a more appropriate bill would have said that new dredge mining regulations would not be enforced until the local government consultation process had been completed,” Denney said, and he asked to return the bill to committee.
No one, including Shepherd, objected to the move, which kills the bill for this year’s legislative session. An Idaho attorney general’s opinion found that the bill was clearly unconstitutional, calling that conclusion a “certainty.”