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Eye On Boise

House committee introduces anti-EPA resolution

The House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee has voted to introduce Rep. Shannon McMillan's non-binding memorial calling for the EPA to pull out of the Silver Valley and halt its Superfund cleanup there within five years, with two "no" votes, one abstention and some concerns about whether the state can do what the resolution says. In addition to sending a message to Congress and the EPA, the memorial declares that the Idaho Legislature "vehemently opposes and rejects the ROD (Record of Decision) amendment proposed by the EPA, and hereby demands that our local, state and federal elected officials do all in their power in order to ensure that the EPA ... end its presence in Shoshone County and rescind the Superfund designation within the next five years." Click below for more.

When Rep. Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, questioned whether the state can do that, the committee's chairman, Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, asked McMillan if she had an answer. "I don't have an answer to that," she responded, at which Raybould said, "I think I do: The answer is no, we do not have authority to override EPA's jurisdiction ... over environmental affairs. The only way that Idaho could override it, and we've done this with the ... DEQ numerous times, is if DEQ came up with rules that were similar to or in excess of EPA's rules, then EPA would back off and let Idaho do the jurisdiction. But then Idaho would have to pick up the bill. So at the present time, I don't believe our DEQ would want to tackle that, nor would our finances of the state."

McMillan told the committee, "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. 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."

She added, "There are two kinds of lead that there are. Lead sulfate, which is not harmful, which is found naturally in the ground up in our area. And lead oxide, which is the byproduct of the smelters. Now the smelters have been removed, so we don't have to really worry about the lead oxide any more."

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 for EPA's cleanup plan for the upper basin is expected to be out in late February or early March.

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, moved to introduce the measure, "Because I think we ought to at least let our delegation back in Washington, D.C. know that Idaho is in favor of this type of thing, and this is probably the only way we can make that encouragement publicly known." Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, said, "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. 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. And so I'm in favor of this motion."

Democratic Reps. Brian Cronin of Boise and Elaine Smith of Pocatello voted against introducing the memorial, and Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, recused himself from the vote, saying his work involves Superfund public involvement at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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