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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Suction dredge miners back Rep. Shepherd’s bill to nullify EPA

Seventy-six people have signed in for a House Resources Committee hearing this afternoon, including many suction dredge miners who are supporting HB 473, Rep. Paul Shepherd’s bill attempting to nullify the EPA’s regulatory authority in Idaho because of miners’ concerns about EPA regulations. In early February, a joint hearing of the House and Senate resources committees drew dozens of angry suction dredge miners who are steamed about a new EPA permit that’s been required for suction dredging in Idaho since last spring.

“I have been mining in the same spot as my great-uncle and other family members,” Don Smith told the committee, “and I have to tell you, the violent high-water event of annual spring runoff makes my activities totally inconsequential.” He said, “When considering EPA rules, Congress has not spoken to this precise question at issue.”

Shepherd’s bill would declare that the EPA’s regulatory authority “is not authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violates its true meaning and intent as given by the founders and ratifers, and is hereby declared to be invalid in the state of Idaho,” and “shall be considered null and void and of no force and effect in this state.”

Others told the committee that the EPA shouldn’t be requiring the same permit for dredge miners as for those who discharge pollutants into waterways, because the dredgers just put the same sand and gravel back into the water that they took out. “Let’s get the EPA out of Idaho and get back to enjoying the gem state,” one told the lawmakers.

Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, said, “I notice in here, we’re talking about dredge mining, but the wording of this would this include any EPA regulations of anything in Idaho, just flat-out.” He asked Shepherd if the bill would cover any water quality or air quality standards the EPA has. “Yes,” said Shepherd, R-Riggins. “I feel it covers any overreach that we can show is legally overreach by that agency.” The hearing is continuing.

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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