Gov. Butch Otter’s pick to be the next director of the state Department of Environmental Quality was the public affairs director for Agrium, a fertilizer company that’s been involved in multiple hazardous materials incidents and is currently being monitored by the EPA, for the past several years until his retirement earlier this year, reports Idaho Public TV reporter Melissa Davlin. Davlin reports that Agrium is listed on the EPA’s website as out of compliance with the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act with a “significant violation.” You can read her full report here.
Tippets has agreed to recuse himself from any DEQ matters involving his former employer; prior to becoming public affairs manager there, he was human resources director for 13 years and has been with the plant, under a variety of owners, for nearly 40 years. He also told Davlin he knew he would have to be sensitive regarding discussions involving mining, fertilizer and agri-business, but wouldn’t recuse himself from all such matters. “Where do you draw the line? That’s a little difficult,” he said. He added that he believes there could be advantages to having someone with agri-business experience heading the DEQ. “I think, frankly, it can be a good thing to have that insight,” Tippets said. “You kind of know the questions to ask.”
Tippets, 63, told Eye on Boise that he's a supporter of collaboration, and helped lead Agrium to work collaboratively with conservation groups including the Idaho Conservation League and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in his final years there. “I’m a person that works to try to resolve issues collaboratively when you can,” he said.