BOISE – A proposal to delist part of the Bunker Hill federal Superfund site stalled in committee Tuesday after local officials raised objections.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.
Giddings spent about half an hour telling the House Resources and Conservation Committee all about the history of the Silver Valley site, which was created in 1983 to clean up heavy metals contamination left over from a century of mining and smelting activity.
She noted that no additional remediation work is needed or planned within the populated portions of the Superfund area. Consequently, her resolution asks the governor to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove or delist that part of the site.
Besides reducing the stigma of being part of a Superfund site, Giddings said, the delisting would boost economic development opportunities in the valley and give local governments more control over land-use decisions.
Several Silver Valley mayors, however, submitted a letter raising concerns about the delisting. The Shoshone County commissioners also worried about potential negative effects, including the possible loss of federal funding.
That was enough to convince the Resources Committee to kill the bill.
“We have a letter from the mayor of Kellogg saying he doesn’t support this,” Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, said. “I agree you need collaboration, but it seems like you have the cart ahead of the horse. To me, it doesn’t sound like all the discussions have been taken care of.”
Given that the resolution asks the governor to take action, Resources Chairman Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, was disturbed that no one from his office or the state Department of Environmental Quality showed up to support the legislation.
“Nor do we have any local officials,” Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, said. “I think they ought to be here encouraging the state to assume liability (for the cleanup site). There’s a lot here we don’t know.”
Giddings, who brought the bill on behalf of some Silver Valley constituents, suggested many of the concerns raised by the mayors and commissioners would be addressed as the delisting process progressed. That proved to be scant comfort for committee members, though.
“It sounds like there are strong opinions on both sides of this question,” Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, said. “I think this would benefit from further conversations.”
Raybould’s motion to hold the bill in committee was approved on a voice vote. The only no votes came from Reps. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, and John Vander Woude, R-Nampa.
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