News

Press Release: Integrated Waste Treatment Unit Completes Critical Test

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2019

Integrated Waste Treatment Unit Completes Critical Test

Fluor Idaho crews recently finished a 50-day test of the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit in which they successfully treated more than 63,000 gallons of liquid designed to mimic the radioactive waste that is awaiting treatment at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

This is the longest test so far and its successful completion should allow the process of treating the 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive waste that now resides in three stainless steel 300,000-gallon storage tanks to commence.

This progress is encouraging for several reasons, one of which is that Idaho has been waiting for years for the Department of Energy (DOE) to make good on the promises it made as part of the 1995 Settlement Agreement between Idaho and DOE. Holding the federal government accountable with regard to the safe processing of this waste is necessary to protect Idahoans and Idaho resources.

I am personally delighted to hear about the successful completion of this critical test. INL is an important resource for Idaho and for the nation, and Fluor Idaho’s innovation is helping to keep it moving forward and making progress.

While it often goes largely unnoticed, vital research is being performed at INL each day and Idahoans have much of which to be proud. I expect that we will see even more innovative research and development in the near future.

I am thankful to the many Idahoans who had a role in this process and I am especially thankful to the many conscientious individuals at INL and at Fluor Idaho who are diligently serving Southeast Idaho.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Jordan Watters, Chief of Staff
(208) 565-6710

Press Release: Governor Little’s executive order seeks to improve regional government services across Idaho

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2019

Governor Little’s executive order seeks to improve regional government services across Idaho

Boise, Idaho – Governor Brad Little signed his latest Executive Order into law today, creating a working group chaired by Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin to identify where Idaho can gain efficiencies and improve customer service at state agency regional offices across the state.

“It’s important for citizens across Idaho to access state government services close to home,” Governor Little said. “My executive order seeks to improve customer service at regional state agency offices by identifying any inefficiencies so that government uses taxpayer dollars as responsibly and effectively as possible.”

The working group will include 12 individuals – seven citizens representing different regions of the state; one member each of the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate; representatives of the Governor’s Office, Division of Financial Management, and Department of Administration; and one at-large member.

“The natural propensity of government is to grow and become increasingly inefficient. Unlike in the private sector where competition and market forces work together to increase efficiency and improve customer service, there is no ‘invisible hand’ that guides the state. This is why we are taking action to investigate and implement the improvements that will not occur spontaneously,” Lt. Governor McGeachin said.

The working group will spend the next 18 months on the project and make recommendations to the Governor on its findings.

“Idahoans deserve state agencies that are dedicated to helping them and their business endeavors, not to erecting roadblocks and manufacturing obstacles to success. We will invest our time and energy into making sure that state agencies exist to serve the people of Idaho and to improve their lives,” Lt. Governor McGeachin added.

The full text of Executive Order 2019-03, “Regional Government Efficiency Working Group,” is available here.

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NEWS MEDIA CONTACT: Marissa Morrison, Press Secretary
208-943-1686 or Marissa.Morrison@gov.idaho.gov

My Comments Regarding Wilderness and Other Lands Issues

Mr. Chuck Mark, Supervisor

Salmon-Challis National Forest

1206 Challis Street

Salmon, ID. 83467

RE: Formal Substantive Comments on Wilderness and other issues

Dear Mr. Mark:

As you move forward in the Plan Revision process for the Salmon-Challis National Forest (SCNF) you need to take into consideration the impact on our rural communities. Throughout the State of Idaho, our rural communities are losing their traditional livelihoods through the loss of grazing, mining and timber harvest. To be able to continue their traditional way of life at a sustainable level for future generations, more multiple use opportunities must be encouraged. The lock up of more land through Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River designations is detrimental to traditional life values. Both Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers equate to more unusable acres in each County severely impacting their economies.

As a State, Idaho is 61.7% under Federal management in one form or another. It has more wilderness designations than any other State in the lower 48 with the largest single wilderness being on the SCNF. According to the 2011 study done by the Idaho Association of Counties, Lemhi County has 8% private land while Custer County has only 5%. Our rural counties and communities throughout the State cannot survive unless the multiple use needs of these areas are met through increasing multiple use opportunities. Multiple use designated lands have been declining for the last 40 years.

The Plan Revision process must weigh and consider the needs and concerns of the citizens residing within Custer and Lemhi counties with greater emphasis than those of parties further removed from the direct impact of the resulting Plan. Proactive management to sustain, enhance and encourage more multiple use opportunities needs to start now and be considered a priority throughout the Plan process.

President Trump’s Executive Order dated December 21, 2019, on “Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk” is an important directive to be followed concerning current public land management policy whether it is Forest, National Recreation Area or Wilderness. The State is ready to help in this effort by actions promulgated through the establishment of the Good Neighbor Authority. More Wilderness equates to more unmaintained forest lands left to burn, causing a true detriment to the residents of the area and certainly is not the answer regardless of qualifying factors. Please take the steps necessary to eliminate most, if not all, of the proposed Wilderness areas in the SCNF.

To maintain healthy forests, more accessible roads should be established and closed roads opened for the general purposes of timber harvest, fire suppression, weed control, and grazing access as well as recreation. Access to the forest is critical to all users for enjoyment in all its many forms. Forests are not just for those that hike or possibly can ride a horse as it is now in Wilderness areas. The biggest share of the population does not fit into this Wilderness scenario. Young children, the aging and disabled or handicapped populations are currently disenfranchised by being locked out of the Wilderness. This translates into more motorized access, not less. This is discrimination at its finest and needs to change. Public means everyone, not an elite few.

Keep the great State of Idaho and its rural communities traditionally and economically viable. Please consider these comments carefully.

Laws and Rules

While the terms “laws” and “rules” may be used interchangeably in common conversation, in Idaho, they refer to two different functions of government. Laws or, more accurately, statutes must be passed by both chambers of the state legislature and cross the Governor’s desk before they become part of Idaho code. Administrative rules, on the other hand, are put together by personnel within the various state agencies and released in monthly Administrative Bulletins that are often hundreds of pages in length.

Unlike laws (which come into existence as bills), these rules are not voted on by both chambers of the state legislature or even by one entire chamber. Instead, they are reviewed only by relevant legislative committees and can be approved by a simple majority of one such committee. That means that instead of 105 state legislators casting a vote and the Governor having the opportunity to sign or veto a piece of legislation, a rule can be approved by fewer than ten legislators—and there is typically no additional approval required.

In some cases, rules can become permanent without any legislative review or approval. As long as a proposed rule doesn’t raise fees, the rule will automatically go into effect at the end of the legislative session unless it is reviewed and formally rejected by a relevant legislative committee from each chamber. In some cases, committee chairs will even decline to schedule a hearing on a controversial rule in order to allow it to go into effect without any debate or review.

The shortcomings of this system were brought home recently when the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee voted 7-6 (with four Republicans and three Democrats making up the majority) to impose a school-required meningococcal vaccine on all 12th-grade students (even those who are legal adults) at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. That narrow committee vote is all that is required for this controversial decision to go into effect. It will not be reviewed or voted on by the full legislature.

This is just one of the dozens of rules that small legislative committees will quietly approve this session as they do each year. Some—though not all—proposed rules include a public hearing at some point in the process, but these are not typically well publicized and most Idahoans are not aware of the myriad proposed rules that might one day criminalize their previously legal behavior.

In many cases, there are no public hearings on proposed rules unless such a hearing is “requested in writing by twenty-five (25) persons, a political subdivision, or an agency.” Did you know that you needed to round up your friends and neighbors and all write letters to a government agency in order for the public to be included in the rule-making process?

How can we improve this process? Short of changing the law to require that all proposed rules be voted on by the entire legislature (which is certainly a proposal worth considering), we could also require that all proposed rules include well-publicized public hearings and that the relevant agencies be tasked with proactively identifying and contacting likely stakeholders and potentially affected parties to request their involvement in the process.

Unless or until such changes can be implemented, however, my best advice for Idahoans is to actively monitor the Administrative Bulletins that are released each month and to take advantage of the opportunity to submit written comments regarding the proposals. You should also reach out to your legislators when an issue arises which requires greater scrutiny. Idaho has a part-time legislature and our lawmakers cannot be experts on every subject. They often must rely on you to let them know when bad ideas are introduced through the rule-making process.

I look forward to working with the legislature and our state agencies to find ways to improve the rule-making process and to make sure that your voice is better heard and represented throughout our state government.