Letters From the West

Simpson moves to chair panel with control of purse strings of Idaho lab

Rep. Mike Simpson

Rep. Mike Simpson

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson has been appointed as chairman of the House subcommittee that has authority over the Idaho National Laboratory, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration.

Simpson will head the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development that has far-reaching spending power over the eastern Idaho lab’s research and cleanup operations; the agencies that run the dams on the Boise, Payette and Snake Rivers; and the agencies in charge of the Pacific Northwest’s hydroelectric dams and power revenues.

“The Idaho delegation has a strong history of involvement in federal issues related to energy development and water infrastructure, and in particular nuclear energy,” Simpson said in a press release. “This new assignment gives me the opportunity to expand our involvement in these issues and make sure the concerns of our state and region are heard and addressed.”

The panel also has spending authority over the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

Simpson got a strong endorsement from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers.

“I know that he is committed to making the most out of every precious taxpayer dollar, to ensuring that our nation continues to strive toward energy independence, and to fostering an environment that allows our businesses to create jobs and grow the economy,” Rogers said.

Last month Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador told the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board that the value of having an Idahoan as chairman of the Energy subcommittee was overrated.

“I don’t think one man or one man’s election is critical to Idaho’s economy,” Labrador said.

Simpson faces a challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, who has the backing from the group Club for Growth.

Simpson was required to give up his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment under House term-limit rules. He still will sit on that committee as well as the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education.

Simpson said he will remain involved in Interior and Forest Service issues.

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.

Posted in Letters from the West