Idaho is sick of the Environmental Protection Agency telling it how to manage its natural resources — and lawmakers have proposed a bill that would nullify EPA regulations.
The bill was proposed after dredge miners complained that the EPA and its “jack-booted thugs in swat uniforms” were trying to make gold dredging harder though increased permitting requirements. Gold dredgers Idaho state senators that the agency was trying to use the Clean Water Act to eliminate dredging all together.
“It appears the EPA bureaucracy has an agenda in its interpretation of what pollution is,” said state Rep. Paul Shepherd, the Republican who introduced the nullification bill. “They’re saying if you pick up sand with a suction dredge, run it through and dump it back in the water, that’s pollution. It’s pretty much shutting (the dredgers) down. That’s the main thing driving this, but the bill pertains to any regulations not approved by the people.”
Environmentalists argue that the extra gold dredging permit now required by the EPA “gives dredgers a legal and environmental certainty for their exploration,” reports the Twin Falls Times-News.
“The bill doesn’t nullify regulations approved by Congress, Shepherd said, but does nullify regulations created by the EPA alone to implement legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts,” Shepherds said.
But the EPA says that these permits are necessary, or else gold dredging would be illegal. Before the agency imposed more permitting, dredgers faced fines totalling $37,500 a day.
“In a sense it creates a mechanism to do this activity in Idaho,” EPA Idaho Director Jim Werntz told the Times-News. “There are other states who have stopped the activity altogether, or are stopping it in huge sections of the state.“
Even some fellow Republicans have had concerns over whether or not the nullification bill is a good idea, though others remain open to the idea.
“I hope this doesn’t undermine efforts to find a solution,” said Republican state Rep. Eric Anderson. “Also, we codified many of these regulations into state law when we took primacy over the EPA programs, so this bill would be nullifying state law at the same time.”
Unlike the U.S. Congress and most states, Idaho requires that the state legislature approve of all regulations being promulgated by state agencies.
“The legislature declares that the regulation authority of the United States environmental protection agency is not authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violates its true meaning and intent as given by the founders and ratifiers, and is hereby declared to be invalid in the state of Idaho,shall not be recognized by this state, is specifically rejected by this state and shall be considered null and void and of no force and effect in this state,” according to the nullification bill introduced by Shepherd.
Dredging uses floating vacuums to suck up or spit out water and dirt to find gold. the Clean Water Act says that “point source discharges of pollutants into waters” need to be permitted. Idaho was one of the last states to impose EPA dredging rules.
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