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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Crapo’

In a move that may, or may not, resolve the federal lawsuit over the delisting of wolves from Endangered Species Act protections, 10 of the 14 conservation and wildlife organizations that filed the lawsuit have agreed to a tentative settlement. Also, the tentative agreement may, or may not, cause Congress to reconsider efforts to delist wolves legislatively.

The agreement would be subject to approval by Judge Malloy in the federal courtroom in Montana, and subject to a number of procedural niceties. The basics of the agreement would return wolves to state management in Idaho and Montana, but not Wyoming or other bordering states with still-recovering populations of wolves. The agreement would also set up a scientific panel within two years to evaluate wolf recovery numbers in the region.

The deal, theoretically, eliminates any need for Congressional action, and notably, the settlement agreement states that it is “null and void” if Congress acts to delist wolves. Still, it appears as if Idaho’s Congressional delegation, all Republicans, are not backing off. However, the deal does have support from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. And Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat critical in Congressional budget negotiations, was non-committal.

We’re still parsing the words of the settlement, the words from congressional and political leaders, and words of the organizations involved in the lawsuit. Here’s what we’re reading:

Here’s the actual proposed settlement agreement (pdf)

Clear-eyed reporting and analysis from Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker.  And Montana reporting from the Missoulian.

Statements from Rep. Mike Simpson, Sen. Mike Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch, and Sen. Max Baucus.

The statement from the Interior Department regarding the settlement.

Statements from WildEarth Guardians (one of the groups not agreeing to the settlement), Defenders of Wildlife (and the other groups signing on to the settlement) and EarthJustice (formerly attorneys for all the groups, but now, because of the split, not attorneys for any of them).

UPDATE 3/20: More analysis from the Statesman’s Rocky Barker.

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As the lame duck session of the U.S. Congress draws to a close, Idaho’s Senators threw some wild punches today and come away with nothing but embarrassment.

First, as the final debate of the START treaty got underway this afternoon, Senator Crapo brings up, of all things, the issue of wolves. From Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez:

Indeed, our Senator Crapo asked for unanimous consent to take up the issue, knowing full well that it was out of line and wouldn’t be granted, and then issued a press release decrying the lack of action on wolves.

Then there’s this exchange between Senator Risch and Senator Cardin on the START treaty, also reported  elegantly on twitter by CBS reporter Mark Knoller:

After first quipping that the plot of Mission Impossible IV will be the retrieval of these four Humvees by Tom Cruise, Knoller continues:

And the great deliberative body of the U.S. Senate gently sets aside our Senator’s Humvee issue and gets on with more pressing business:

Here’s hoping that 2011, and the 112th Congress, will bring better representation for our state.

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Gov. Otter and Sen. Crapo in Kellogg last night. Photo by KEA BlackberryCam

Last night, Senator Crapo and Governor Otter hosted another round of opposition to the EPA’s proposed cleanup plan for the Silver Valley. Mostly a rerun of last week’s hearing, Hecla Mining employees, local citizens, and local politicians lined up for 90 seconds at the microphone.

The same complaints – that the cleanup will (somehow) affect mining jobs, that it is an unlimited federal program with unlimited expenditures, and that citizens need more time to digest it – were thoroughly rehashed.

Senator Crapo, in opening the session, noted that this cleanup is “as difficult as anywhere in the United States” and urged the EPA to recognize the need to “simultaneously” clean up the environment and protect the local economy and jobs. Governor Otter claimed to still be “in process” vetting the plan, but then came out with his opposition to water treatment facilities included in the EPA plan. Senator Risch and Congressman Minnick provided video feeds expressing their concern for jobs and the economy in the Silver Valley.

We agreed with Senator Crapo, though, that with a “collaborative problem-solving spirit” the necessary cleanup – required by both federal law and solid science – the proposed cleanup of the Silver Valley can proceed while protecting the local economy and responsible mining operations into the future. Otherwise, the toxic wastelands that remain in the Silver Valley will simply remain in the Silver Valley.  And despite some of the rhetoric over the last week, doing nothing is not an option.

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H.L. Mencken once noted that “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” And with a “listening session” with Senator Crapo and Governor Otter scheduled Monday evening in Kellogg, we’re concerned for the EPA’s new cleanup plan for the Silver Valley.

In a pending amendment to EPA’s “Record of Decision” governing the Superfund cleanup, the EPA is proposing a plan to clean up more than 300 mine waste sites in the upper Coeur d’Alene basin, deal with protecting the work already completed, and treat polluted groundwater — all in an effort to bring the environment in the Silver Valley back to a functional normal.

We are preparing detailed written comments on the plan, but overall, the EPA proposal is worthy of support. It sets out, with perhaps sad and unfortunate clarity, the scope and scale of the cleanup remaining in the upper basin. Until mine sites are cleaned, contamination stabilized, and polluted groundwater dealt with, the entire basin remains an ecological disaster zone.

At a recent EPA open house and hearing, dozens of residents spoke out against the EPA cleanup plan. Many were legitimately concerned about the 50 to 90 years that it will take to complete it. Many were legitimately concerned about the short comment period EPA allowed for the complicated plan.

But because many were concerned with the continuing stigma of the Superfund designation, an “EPA go home” mentality dominated the hearing. Unfortunately, both environmental law and environmental science are going to demand a long and difficult cleanup of a huge and difficult mess.

Indeed, it is another of Mencken‘s sayings which may be more apt, namely that “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Denying the problem, postponing the solution, and failing to get on with the cleanup would be clear and simple and wrong.

The public comment period is from July 12 to August 25, 2010. Send comments via email to cdabasin@epa.gov or send it via mail to:

Coeur d’Alene Basin Team
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900, MS ECL-113
Seattle, WA 98101

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Intern and Congress-watcher Jordin Jacobs helps with this report:

Full and dedicated funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund is expected to be considered this week in the context of comprehensive oil spill legislation being considered by the US Congress.

Since its inception in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped state agencies and local communities acquire millions of acres of land for conservation, including Idaho’s Sawtooth National Recreation Area. LWCF grants to states have distributed funds to almost every single county in America for over 41,000 projects including parks, sports fields, swimming pools, playgrounds, and trails. LWCF has also funded the protection of over 1.5 million acres of working forests in over 30 states. Idaho Conservation League’s Susan Drumheller tells us that  local BLM has used LWCF frequently for their waterfront acquisitions an North Idaho spots that have benefited from LWCF include Cougar Bay and Blue Creek Bay.

 LWCF is financed largely through revenue generated in oil and gas leasing. When the LWCF was established, Congress intended that a portion of the oil and gas receipts be dedicated and reinvested in conservation assets across the nation in exchange for the environmental risks inherent in developing finite offshore oil resources. However, in most years, due to tight budgets, Congress and various administrations have diverted funds from their intended purpose.

This year, through the oil spill legislation, it may be possible to fully support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We are hopeful that full and dedicated funding will finally be given to conservation for National Parks, forests, wildlife refuges, parks and recreation projects, and other federal lands.

Since it was enacted, LWCF has been the only conservation offset for offshore oil drilling. This year, of all years, it should be fully funded. Give your member of Congress a phone call this week.

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Our outstanding intern Jordin Jacobs informs us of legislation pending in Congress regarding electric vehicles. Both Senators Crapo and Risch are on key Senate committees that will consider S. 3442, The Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, written to jump start the operation of electric vehicles and development of the necessary infrastructure:

Our current transportation system accounts for 70% of our oil dependency. According to proponents, if the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act is passed, the U.S. would be on a path to having 75% of our car miles electric by 2040, thus reducing oil use by at least 6 million gallons per day.

This legislation would establish a select number of areas as electrification “deployment communities” in which incentives in support of electric vehicle purchases would be employed and development of charging infrastructure promoted, allowing all aspects of an electrified transportation system to be deployed at once.

To support the legislation, the Electrification Coalition has formed as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit group of business leaders committed to promoting policies and actions that facilitate the deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale in order to combat the economic, environmental, and national security dangers caused by our nation’s dependence on petroleum.  The Coalition calls for interested Idahoans to send an e-mail to their U.S. Senators urging for a reduction in oil dependency through support of the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act.  They have an easy link to do so here.

UPDATE 7/21: The vote this morning in the Senate Natural Resources Committee was a strong bipartisan vote in favor, 19-4.  It is exceedingly rare to get such a strong bipartisan vote these days, especially on a proposal with a significant price tag. Although the four negative votes were from Senate Republicans, Idaho Senator Jim Risch voted in favor.

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The League of Conservation Voters just released its 2009 scorecard, grading Congress on environmental votes. As is sadly not unexpected, the Idaho Congressional delegation did poorly. On a 0-100% scale:

Sen. Mike Crapo = 18%

Sen. Jim Risch = 18%

Rep. Walt Minnick = 43%

Rep. Mike Simpson = 21%

However, to look on the (barely) bright side, in a delegation rated among the most conservative in the U.S. by the National Journal, Idaho’s Congressional representatives weren’t the very worst environmentally. In the U.S. Senate, seven delegations scored below 10% (Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Wyoming). In the U.S. House, four delegations scored below 20% (Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, and Nebraska)

Partly, this is due to the universal support the Idaho delegation gave to the omnibus public lands bill which, among many other things, created the Owyhee wilderness in Southern Idaho — the result of a long collaborative effort. 

LCV scored Congress on votes on top priority votes on clean energy and global warming, but also public lands, water quantity and quality, forest management, offshore drilling, wildlife conservation at home and abroad, chemical security and population.

There’s always next year…

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