Alarms Raised over Coal Train Traffic

SANDPOINT — Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and the Sierra Club are hosting a forum Thursday to raise awareness of a plan that could dramatically increase coal train traffic through Bonner County.

The Coal Hard Truth forum starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Little Panida Theater on First Avenue.

Opponents of the plan contend that increased coal train traffic will heighten the odds of a derailment, foul water quality with coal dust and damage air quality with diesel pollution. There is also concern that the added train traffic will slow emergency response because traffic will be halted at-grade railroad crossings to let trains through.

Featured speakers at the forum include Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, Dr. Robert Truckner, small business owner and farmer Walter Kloefkorn and Shannon Williamson, executive director of Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.

Critics of the proposals by Arch Coal and Peabody Energy estimate as many as 40 additional trains will be coming through the community.

Read more: Alarms Raised over Coal Train Traffic

(By Keith Kinnaird, news editor, Bonner County Daily Bee)

Final Three Mega-Loads (At Least For Now) Roll Tonight

[Website Editor’s Note: The last three Highway 95 megaloads referenced in this article actually number five and will likely depart the Port of Lewiston around March 6 to 8.]

Tonight marks a milestone in the saga of the Idaho mega-loads.

In early 2010, Boise Weekly first began telling you about ExxonMobil’s plans to haul giant rigs of oil equipment across the Pacific Ocean from South Korea, up the Columbia River, through the Port of Lewiston, and slowly across Idaho highways hugging the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers along U.S. Highway 12.

When most northern Idaho citizens first got wind of the plans in June 2010, they began pushing back, taking Big Oil and the Idaho Department of Transportation through legal tussles in front of District Courts, the Idaho Supreme Court, and lengthy ITD hearings.

Read more: Final Three Mega-Loads (At Least For Now) Roll Tonight

(By George Prentice, Boise Weekly)

Talking Points for House Bill 464

* Industry is attempting to push through too many major changes in one piece of legislation.  This bill should really be three different bills. Instead, it’s one large and very bad bill. There are so many problems that need to be addressed:  local control issues, water grabs, and injection well issues; that frankly, the Senate Resource and Environment Committee should kill it.

* The gas industry and the State have essentially coerced counties into supporting bad legislation.

* House Bill 464 is a direct attack on local control and citizen involvement in land use regulation.

* How can the gas industry call this a “compromise bill” when the only county in Idaho with a gas and oil ordinance wasn’t invited to the negotiations?

* The impacts of the gas industry will be felt most acutely at the local level.  Local governments must absolutely retain authority over siting, setbacks, noise, odor, road use, etc., and the ability to use the special permitting process to create site-specific conditions that may, at times, require stronger regulations than the state’s. Continue reading

Idaho Fracking Forum Recording: Part 2

KRFP Radio Free Moscow recently posted the second part of the Idaho Fracking Forum recorded on February 11 at the Hamilton Indoor Recreation Center in Moscow.  Sponsored by the Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, Palouse Group Sierra Club, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the public discussion addressed the policy and science of newly emerging natural gas industry practices in Idaho.  Panel speakers included southern Idaho anti-fracking activists Liz Amason and Amanda Buchanan, University of Idaho hydrogeologist Jerry Fairley, Kai Huschke of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and Idaho Representative Tom Trail of Moscow.  State Senator Dan Schmidt of Moscow and several visiting and resident audience members also contributed to the conversation.  Please see Idaho Fracking Forum for more information about the forum and listen to Idaho Fracking Forum Part 2.

County/City Special Use Permitting Processes are Essential to Oil and Gas Development

For 35 years, statute has required local governments to develop a comprehensive plan and then adopt ordinances which conform to the plan and state law.  In this way, development is orderly and follows a road map (comp plan) which is tailored to each community.  As you probably know, all land use is divided into difference use zones.  Then administrative permitting or guidelines are written for what is allowed in each of those zones.  In this way for example, if you want to build a 2000-square-foot home, you can do it simply by applying for a permit to do so in any zone which allows for that use.

Most every community also identifies certain other activities which by their very nature, can be allowed in one or more zones but because of potential conflict or other concerns, need special review.  For example, a day care center may be allowed in a commercial zone, but requires a special use permit to be allowed in a residential district because the hours of operations, traffic, and other safety or quality of life issues could be impacted.  In a rural setting such as the county, things like cell towers, gravel pits, CAFO’s, etc., are usually allowed in most zones, but only by special use permit.  In this way, adjacent property owners can have some input to address issues that may impact the enjoyment of their own property or other safety and quality of life concerns.  It allows local authorities to grant the use if certain conditions are met to mitigate these concerns.  In reality, the special use permit cuts two ways.  Rather than completely excluding a potentially compatible use from any given area because there might be instances where such a use is problematic, special use permits are really about expanding opportunity.  So too it is with gas & oil. Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: John Wolverton & Kyla Wiens 2-27-12

This Monday, February 27, Wild Idaho Rising Tide’s weekly broadcast and audio-streamed Climate Justice Forum radio program will host John Wolverton of the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club and Kyla Wiens of the Montana Environmental Information Center in a conversation about their court case with Missoula County and the National Wildlife Federation, the repercussions of Judge Dayton’s decision, and the future of our regional resistance to tar sands heavy hauls by several companies.  Please listen between 7:30 and 9 pm PST every Monday to KRFP Radio Free Moscow, as we cover regional and national dirty energy news and grassroots resistance.

Idaho House Bill 464 Comment Suggestions

Urgent action is needed on House Bill 464!

If House Bill 464 passes the Idaho Senate as it has already passed the House, it would shift all meaningful control over oil and gas production from the county/city level up to the state level.

Under the Local Land Use Planning Act (LLUPA) and current state statutes, anytime someone wants to develop a property in a manner and location other than how that area is currently zoned, they must follow a special permitting process. For example, if Snake River Oil and Gas wanted to drill a well on the Payette Elementary School grounds, they would have to apply for and be granted a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or Special Use Permit (SUP), in this case, through the City of Payette. They would file an application with the city and be required to go through a public hearing process in order to be granted the permit. That process mandates a public notice, written notification to surrounding property owners, and a public meeting where residents can testify for or against the siting of the facility. It also affords affected property owners the ability to appeal a permit if they feel they have been aggrieved in any way or if the process was not handled correctly (no public notice, no notification to surrounding landowners, etc.). Continue reading

Tar Sands and Its Discontents

On Friday, February 24, Scott Parkin of Rising Tide North America (whom we hosted on our Climate Justice Forum show last week) published the article Tar Sands and Its Discontents in the online journal of “dispatches from the youth climate movement,” It’s Getting Hot in Here.  Scott opens his piece by asking readers, “Besides the story of the massive campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, do you know about the other battles going on around the U.S. to stop the tar sands?”  He then relates Wild Idaho Rising Tide’s (WIRT) numerous rowdy protests, civil disobedience, citizen journalism, and megaload monitoring since last summer in our small town and reveals that, “Now only a few megaloads remain, and WIRT is organizing final actions to challenge Exxon’s supremacy.”  His article also references our Rising Tide colleagues’ work to stop tar sands development “in the red rocked canyons of southern Utah” (please see Utah Tar Sands) as well as Maine opposition to a proposed pipeline flow reversal, which could bring Canadian tar sands to the rocky coast, and unrest throughout the country, where “Big Oil has been modifying and building facilities solely for tar sands refining.”  Scott’s conclusion offers confirmation that WIRT’s actions stand at the forefront of long-overdue rebellions “of die-hard anti-tar sands fighters” against this industry’s “money, corrupt politicians, and institutional power and influence,” with “uprisings against powerful oil interests [not] that far off.”

Please read the rest at: Tar Sands and Its Discontents.

(From WIRT Newsletter)

Citizens Give First-Hand Account on Monitoring Megaloads

Besides the much appreciated, ongoing, thorough coverage of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) protests and court cases by KRFP Radio Free Moscow posted on our website, our tar sands transport monitoring activities garnered some rare regional television exposure in mostly pro-megaload Lewiston with the KLEW TV story Citizens Give First-Hand Account on Monitoring Megaloads.  The brief video and reportage by Cindy Cha features Rob Briggs and Paul McPoland as megaload monitors gathering evidence for a potential administrative court case and spin-off monitor and accident victim misdemeanor trials.  The KLEW camera also captures our approximately fortieth WIRT protest and organizer Helen Yost in the cold wind outside Moscow City Hall, where most officials have largely welcomed the perceived economic benefits of their complicity.

(By Cindy Cha, KLEW TV Lewiston)

Senate Panel Kills Effort to Tie Colorado Communities’ Hands on Oil and Gas Regulations

The state-local struggle over regulation of oil and gas drilling shifted Thursday after Colorado lawmakers killed an effort to extinguish the ability of cities and counties to set their own rules.

Senators on the Local Government Committee voted 4-1 to reject Senate Bill 88, sponsored by Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, which would have pre-empted local power to use land-use and zoning regulations to control industrial development. The bill would have given the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission unfettered power to supervise the industry.

Energy companies are preparing to tap the vast Niobrara shale formation along Colorado’s heavily populated Front Range. Residents are anxious, attending forums, asking that drillers be required to keep greater distances from homes and schools, conduct baseline water and air tests, and adhere to environment-friendly practices.

Read more: Senate Panel Kills Effort to Tie Colorado Communities’ Hands on Oil and Gas Regulations

(By Bruce Finley, The Denver Post)