FBI WIRT Inquiries

December 10 & 19, 2014

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent Travis Thiede placed missed phone calls from Coeur d’Alene cell phone number 208-661-0316 to Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT)/Helen Yost three times on December 10, 2014, at 8:10 am, 11:21 am, and 1:07 pm [1-3].  Mr. Thiede called WIRT during the Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! meetings, likely drawn, with his agency, to these gatherings in Sandpoint, Idaho, on December 8, in Spokane, Washington, on December 9, and in Moscow, Idaho, on December 10 [4].  Helen did not notice these three missed calls until about 3 pm on December 23, 2014.

A little before 10 am on Friday morning, December 19, 2014, WIRT/Helen received another missed, incoming phone call from the same Coeur d’Alene cell phone.  After this fourth call at 9:47 am, Mr. Thiede messaged the WIRT phone, and Helen replied via the following text messages:

TT (12/19, 9:51 am): “Helen, I am trying to get a hold of you to speak with you.  An issue has come up, and I need to speak with you.  Please give me a call.  I am an FBI agent.  SA Travis Thiede.  208-661-0316”

HY (12/19, 9:59 am): “NO!”

TT (12/19, 10:03 am): “OK, I understand, just wanted to have a conversation with you.  Thanks.”

HY (12/20 next day, 9:17 am): “I do not wish to speak with you or any of your associates about anything.”

The December 23, 2014 Morning Mix and Evening Report radio news programs of KRFP Radio Free Moscow ran an interview about the situation with core WIRT activist Helen, by station manager Leigh Robartes [5].  The news story discussed FBI conversation requests and offered updates on the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) petition and demonstration advocating safety measures for U.S. Highway 95 before re-routing south of Moscow, Idaho.  During the December 23 midnight interview, Helen read directly from the text messages on the cell phone, still unaware of previously attempted FBI contact.  The interview implied that the special agent had called concerning December 17 WIRT comments on the PRDC highway safety petition submitted to various agencies and/or about December 19 WIRT remarks about our motivations for this campaign [6, 7].  A PRDC/WIRT co-activist noticed at least two unmarked cars observing the December 19 PRDC safety demonstration, which occurred only 3 1/2 hours after the FBI text messages [8].

October 9, 2014

Despite WIRT awareness of likely surveillance since September 2011, these encounters represent the second/third recent instances of direct contact.  Late in the morning of October 9, 2014, the FBI came to the door of a distant, core WIRT activist in Bellingham, Washington, wanting to ask questions about the activities of another group, Deep Green Resistance (DGR) [9].  Our great comrade correctly declined giving answers, which resulted in the agents leaving.  That evening (at about the same time as Payette, Idaho police arrested Alma Hasse of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction at a county meeting), he graciously provided this description of his FBI interactions: Continue reading

Report on Highway 95 Safety Petition & Demonstration

PRDC Safety Petition

Thanks to everyone who signed, circulated, and wrote compelling comments for the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) petition advocating safety measures and sensible re-routing for dangerous U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow, Idaho! [1]  In just three weeks, almost 500 Idaho and American taxpayers contributed their signatures and thoughts to this community effort.  Tim Hatten, a PRDC board member, wrote a much appreciated letter to the editor of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, inviting petition signatures before the 11 pm Wednesday, December 17 deadline [2].  PRDC organizers and board members Diane Baumgart, Stephan Flint, Joann Muneta, Mary Ullrich, and Helen Yost worked hours of outreach to collectively gather 230 hard-won, hand-written signatures, almost matching the 257 online signatures.  On Thursday, December 18, Diane and Mary sent 487 copies of the paper and online petition signatures via overnight mail to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in Lewiston and to ITD Director Brian Ness and the Federal Highway Administration, both in Boise.  Unfortunately, the half dozen reporters who covered the December 19 PRDC safety demonstration underquoted signature tallies or only mentioned 270 online signatures, as supporters continue to sign the PRDC safety petition.

During the culminating week of this safety campaign, KRFP Radio Free Moscow station manager Leigh Robartes thoroughly covered the background of PRDC’s petition and upcoming Friday demonstration targeting ITD inaction and PRDC proposed resolutions of Highway 95 traffic safety problems [3-5].  The December 16, 17, and 18 KRFP Evening Reports offered excellent, full news stories and an interview with PRDC board member Steve Ullrich, exploring regionally shared concerns about Highway 95 safety and re-routing impacts on native Palouse Prairie remnant habitat and wildlife.

In 2003 and again in 2013, PRDC wrote to ITD, requesting that the state agency implement additional, site-specific, safety measures to mitigate U.S. Highway 95 conditions in the Reisenauer Hill area south of Moscow, Idaho.  PRDC suggested flashing caution signs and enforceable, reduced speed limits to improve safety on the notoriously dangerous stretch of U.S. 95 prone to numerous traffic accidents and fatalities.  Because these previous requests have not produced ITD results, PRDC prepared the current petition urging ITD to immediately take these and other appropriate, interim actions and to consider public safety and highway realignment options that ITD has neglected for decades.  Such efforts could save traveler lives and property, especially during inclement and winter weather, and could preserve the unique, rare, native Palouse Prairie ecosystem that Highway 95 re-routing may soon threaten.

PRDC Safety Demonstration

Regional media and residents and PRDC members made and brought signs and/or gathered on the Highway 95 sidewalk around the Palouse River bridge, south of Palouse River Drive in Moscow, between 1:30 and 4:00 pm on Friday, December 19 [6-8].  The resulting public, roadside demonstration in rotating shifts highlighted shared citizen concerns and supported PRDC-proposed measures to improve public safety on U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow. Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: Payette County Bomb Train Station Hearing 12-22-14

The Monday, December 22, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) will air an in-depth report and testimony highlights of the most attended, contentious, and divided public appeal hearing before the Payette County Commission, in Payette, Idaho, on a natural gas processing and railway “bomb train” transportation facility, on December 4, 2014.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PST, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide, grassroots, climate activism and community opposition to industrial, dirty energy invasions, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.

Drastic Action Needed

Tom Fellows, Lewiston

The Lewiston Tribune 12/21/14

Recently three individuals, one being Walt Minnick, formed The Partnership for Responsible Growth (see http://www.partnershipforresponsiblegrowth.org).

Its purpose is to lobby Congress to approve a carbon tax on fossil fuels.  After reading the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate change titled “Risky Business,” they believed doing nothing could result in an uninhabitable planet.  They wrote: “This is not the legacy any of us wish to bequeath to our children and grandchildren.”

They stated the reports said without acting now the world “may have as little as 15 years” to keep the planet’s temperature at a tolerable level.  They failed to mention that all of the IPCC reports have underestimated the rate at which the climate is changing.  They also believe that “carbon-funded tax-cuts” will solve the problems caused by carbon emissions.

Continue reading

Group Demonstrates along Highway 95

Moscow-based coalition against current plan for highway realignment highlights safety in roadside display and petition

Drivers rolling in either direction along U.S. Highway 95 on the south end of Moscow on Friday afternoon could see more than a dozen demonstrators on each side of the road near its intersection with Palouse River Drive.

Most of the demonstrators were members of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), a group that has been fighting for years against the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) preferred realignment route for the first phase of the highway project – a 6 1/2-mile span from Moscow to Thorncreek Road titled “E-2.”  It would cross Paradise Ridge and [not] use a significant amount of the existing route.

Hand-printed messages across brightly colored signs were aimed at students and staff leaving the University of Idaho campus for the winter break.

Some of the signs were meant to be read by order of appearance, in the style of old-time, roadside advertisements.  On display for drivers traveling south were three signs reading “Go Slow,” “Next 5 Miles,” and “Curves & Hills.”

All of the messages highlighted the need for cautious driving through the section of the two-lane highway, which eventually widens farther south to four lanes.  Some passersby responded by honking their horns or waving at the demonstrators. Continue reading

Protesters Call for More Safety along U.S. 95

Group had sued ITD in 2003 over planned re-routing of vital north-south artery.

A group of more than a dozen members and supporters of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition waved picket signs Friday along U.S. Highway 95 in southern Moscow, demanding safety improvements on a seven-mile stretch of the roadway that has yet to be improved.

The bright red signs carried messages like “Danger Ahead,” “Go Slow,” “Live for Holidays,” and “U.S. 95 Unsafe.”  A news release from the coalition stated that the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has shirked its duty by not taking safety measures on the highway over the decade it has taken to complete an environmental impact statement.

“While ITD proclaims ‘safety’ as its highway realignment project objective, its decades-long neglect of public well-being on current U.S. Highway 95 indicates otherwise,” according to the news release.

The same group sued the transportation department in 2003, citing environmental and safety concerns over the [ITD] preferred route of the highway along the western flank of Paradise Ridge.  A federal judge granted an injunction and ordered the department to complete a full environmental impact statement, while design and construction on the rest of the highway continued from Thorn Creek Road to the top of the Lewiston Hill.  That work finished in 2007.

Demonstration organizer Mary Ullrich, a resident of Paradise Ridge, said the coalition is working to encourage the transportation department to immediately make one of the most dangerous stretches of Idaho highway safer.  She took exception to those who have villainized the group for blocking a new, four-lane, divided highway in the first place. Continue reading

Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration

Winter Highway 95 2

PRDC Safety Petition

To enhance safety on a dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow, Idaho, Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) has initiated a petition that urges the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to immediately implement site-specific measures to mitigate unsafe highway conditions.  The scene of numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, the Reisenauer Hill area of Highway 95 poses serious threats to travelers during inclement and winter weather.  For a third time in a dozen years, American taxpayers are requesting that ITD lower and seek enforcement of the speed limit around Reisenauer Hill, erect reduced speed limit warning signs with weather-activated, flashing lights at both approaches to the hill, and install rumble strips in the center and fog lines, and in the traffic lanes before the warning signs, on this section of Highway 95.  Establishing these interim safety measures until and during construction of the new highway could help save lives and property.  PRDC encourages all citizens to read the full text of the petition on the PRDC and MoveOn websites, and sign it soon.  Please also circulate the petition to your colleagues and group members for signatures by 11 pm on Wednesday, December 17.

Petition to the Idaho Transportation Department Requesting Immediate, Site-Specific Actions to Mitigate Dangerous Conditions on Reisenauer Hill (November 28, 2014 Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition)

Highway Safety Demonstration

On Thursday, December 18, PRDC will deliver this petition to the Idaho Transportation Department in Lewiston, and send it via overnight mail to ITD Director Brian Ness and the Federal Highway Administration, both in Boise.  Between 1:30 and 4:00 pm on December 19, regional residents and PRDC members will conduct a Highway 95 roadside demonstration south of Palouse River Drive in Moscow.  Participants will highlight Highway 95 safety: citizen and PRDC concerns about it, appropriate interim measures to improve it, and recommended re-routing options that could restore it.  While ITD proclaims “safety” as its highway realignment project objective, its decades-long neglect of public well-being on current U.S. Highway 95 indicates otherwise. Continue reading

Letter: Sign the Petition

Tim Hatten, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 12/16/14

There’s been a lot of controversy over efforts to widen and improve the safety of U.S. Highway 95 from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow.  Everybody wants to see this stretch of road improved, but the best means for doing so are contentious and under much debate.  Lost in this debate, and in the lengthy process to reach a decision on the re-routing of the highway, is the resounding fact that there still remain safety concerns for the current route.  Specifically, the Reisenauer Hill area, scene of numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, is as dangerous as ever, and poses a threat to the unwary winter traveler.

To help rectify this situation, a petition has been drafted asking the Idaho Transportation Department to implement the following tasks:

1. Immediately lower and seek enforcement of the posted speed limit on Reisenauer Hill.

2. Erect warning signs with the reduced speed limit and weather-activated, flashing, yellow lights on both approaches to this hill.

3. Install rumble strips both in the center line and in the fog lines of this section of road.

4. Place rumble strips in the pavement lane of travel immediately prior to the reduced speed limit signs.

I believe that addressing these tasks could help save lives, and I urge all to sign the petition.  The last day to sign is December 17, so act now.  It can be found at the following link: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/petition-to-the-idaho-1.

WIRT Comments on Alta Mesa Revised Smoke Ranch 1-20 Drilling Permit

Smoke Ranch 1-20 Well Map 2

WIRT Comments on Alta Mesa Revised Smoke Ranch 1-20 Drilling Permit 12-7-14

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) again dismissed Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) comments on a pending Alta Mesa drilling permit and once more did not post these WIRT comments to the IDL website. Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, we worked as diligently as possible to comment and further delay construction of the Smoke Ranch 1-20 oil and gas well a few hundred feet from the Payette River. According to the IDL website, Alta Mesa is currently DRILLING this 4000-foot-deep floodplain intrusion, imposing grave risks on Idahoans and their potentially polluted drinking water supplies, nearby wildlife refuges, agricultural production and reliant economies, and recreational uses of the Payette River and downstream Snake River and Hells Canyon. THANKS to Joe Morton, the Idaho Conservation League, and everyone who commented before both deadlines. As one of only a few participants in the extended comment period, we can attest that this well will offer few benefits to Idahoans, especially when the power of heavy, frequent floods scour the well pad and tree, located closer to the Payette River and wildlife refuge islands to the southeast than marked in this map. See our linked comments and the December 7 WIRT Newsletter.

WIRT Newsletter: Stalled Payette Riverside Well Needs Comments Today, Appeal Hearing Hinders Gas Processing/Train Loading Facility

Stalled Payette Riverside Well Needs Comments Today

As Alta Mesa continues to pursue a permit to drill an oil and gas well a few hundred feet from the Payette River, recent comments from a handful of citizens and two organizations have delayed the permit and postponed drilling of the proposed Smoke Ranch 1-20 well, as described in the following chronology shared on facebook and with Idaho gasland area activists.  Since drilling began again in June 2013, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) has dismissed Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) comments about six incomplete or insufficient Alta Mesa applications for well drilling permits.  (We missed only one comment period of eight and did not previously send our comments to other agencies.)  Like the WIRT comments that influenced the Federal Highway Administration to deny the Idaho Transportation Department/Mammoet proposal to build a “temporary” Interstate 90 megaload on-ramp east of Coeur d’Alene in February 2014, WIRT copied our comments on Alta Mesa’s Smoke Ranch 1-20 well drilling application to pertinent federal, state, and local agencies [1].  For the first time in the history of 19 oil and gas wells drilled or planned in southwest Idaho since 2009, the big state green group so fond of negotiated compromise, the Idaho Conservation League, also commented on this well permit application, but Alta Mesa still dismissed collective floodplain concerns [2].  In response to all of this resistance, IDL atypically forced well drilling application revision and comment period extension to December 7 [3, 4].

November 19: WIRT offers our gratitude for feedback, encouragement, and donations provided by members, who have called these comments “excellent,” “tremendous,” and “thorough, comprehensive, and expert work,” the result of several quiet, fresh, peaceful (but exhausting) all-nighters that re-wrote every possible desperate argument to every perceived authority, drawing again on most of the intellectual capacity and knowledge we could muster.  While this loving piece of resistance may represent “intense advocacy for our planet” and the best, last-minute shot that Mama Earth has to stop the industrial madness of a proposed oil and gas well next to the Payette River, we always hope for better possibilities for WIRT and associates.  We would greatly appreciate your suggestions of southern Idaho and allied support, pro-bono legal assistance, and Payette County WIRT members with resident status standing to effectively stop this well.  Who is up for this effort or referrals of lawyers and citizens who can engage and together move forward with legal and on the-ground opposition to oil and gas companies with much larger capacities?

November 20: Hmmm, yesterday, WIRT sent this note to the IDL: “When can we anticipate your response to the enclosed and attached comments and their posting on the Idaho Department of Lands website?”  Today, IDL replied with “Your comments and documents have been received and have been forwarded to the appropriate staff members.”  The Smoke Ranch 1-20 well drilling permit application and several other citizen/organization comments have disappeared from the IDL website.  Permit?  No permit?

November 21: TEMPORARY VICTORY!  Today, the Idaho Department of Lands posted “a revised [Alta Mesa] drill permit application for the Smoke Ranch 1-20 well.  Comments on the application are due December 7, 2014.  Send comments to comments@idl.idaho.gov or through the IDL website” [3].  A thousand thanks to everyone who forced revision of the original application with their comments and thus postponed drilling.  Despite similar WIRT comments (not sent to other agencies) on six of the seven Alta Mesa well drilling permit applications since development restarted in June 2013, its current application marks the first time that IDL has required application revision and a re-opened comment period.  WIRT doubts that the new application, proposing a 4000-foot-deep oil and gas well in a floodplain island near a wildlife refuge and upstream of the Fruitland drinking water intake, has comprehensively satisfied legal requirements.  So we will attempt earlier research and comments this time, to assist and integrate with yours.  We appreciate your ongoing assistance with these shared efforts to halt further fossil fuel infrastructure in Idaho, as we extend our invitation for integrated, co-signed comments with legal teeth to stop this floodplain development.

Please write to oppose this second Smoke Ranch gas well drilling misadventure!  As WIRT continues to closely watch and refute this proposed development, we are formulating and working on a second set of comments, posted soon, to meet the comment period deadline at midnight on Sunday/Monday, December 7-8.  We are also researching legal grounds for possibly revoking prior permits with similar flaws that we noted in previous comments, and wondering if Payette County ever granted a floodplain variance on the other, nearby Smoke Ranch well drilled during summer 2013, as required by county and federal laws.  Meanwhile, searching for all the legal ammunition that we can find to stop this development, WIRT asked a Colorado comrade – and a core WIRT member volunteered – to refer us to collected information about the impacts and damages caused by and to oil and gas wells and facilities during the September 2013 eastern Colorado floods.  They have provided articles depicting examples of spills associated with oil and gas development near rivers [5-7]. Continue reading