Letters From the West

House panel introduces bill to nullify EPA

Rep. Paul Shepherd

Rep. Paul Shepherd

The House State Affairs Committee voted Thursday to print a bill that would declare the Environmental Protection Agency and all of its rules null and void.

House Bill 473, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Paul Shepherd of Riggins, comes in response to to the agency’s requirement that miners who dredge the bottoms of Idaho rivers and streams where endangered salmon, steelhead and bull trout spawn, must get a permit. A week ago, while I was away, between 60 and 70 miners filled the Capitol auditorium at a hearing organized by the chairmen of the House and Senate resources committees.

The miners may be unhappy but it appeared to be nothing they could get from the Legislature except perhaps a memorial stating their gripes.

Enter Shepherd, one of the lawmakers who believes state have the power to nullify laws they believe to be unconstitutional.

His bill says EPA doesn’t have authority to do anything because it is not in the U.S. Constitution and violates “the true meaning and intent as given by the founders and ratifiers,” and is declared to be “invalid in the state of Idaho.”

Problematic for lawmakers is that they have another bill that would give the state primacy over Clean Water Act pollution permits, an issue raised in committee by Republican Rep. Eric Anderson.  To prove to the EPA it can meet the federal law’s requirements  it will have to spend millions of dollars and add staff to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Idaho industry and local governments want the state handling the permits because they say it streamline the permitting process and save them money. But Shepherd’s bill says EPA has no authority in the state.

Democratic Rep. Holly High asked if the EPA is null and void in Idaho what would happen to those business permits?

Good question.

One of the advantages of age is that I remember when there wasn’t an Environmental Protection Agency. Rivers were sewage ditches where fish couldn’t live and and people couldn’t swim. The air was deadly in places like Chicago and New York and remarkably similar to the air today in Beijing.

 

 

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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