Spokane Conferences, Kalispel Canoe Journey, #No2ndBridge Actions, Fifth Panhandle Paddle


Grassroots, volunteer activists of the regional collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) invite you to participate in the following, crucial opportunities for outreach and activism during the next few weeks, as we together confront the root, fossil fuel sources of climate change through direct, frontline resistance and locally organized solutions.  Please consider contributing physically as an activist and/or fiscally as a supporter of WIRT campaigns, by contacting us at our website-posted addresses or donating online at the Donate to WIRT button.  Thanks!

Online #No2ndBridge Petition

As promised to some of the hundreds of visiting and resident, Northwest citizens who have signed the paper version of the #No2ndBridge petition at the Moscow and Sandpoint Farmers Markets outreach tables of WIRT and allies, we are sharing its online version and text, to outline the numerous harms that Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s proposed, bridge and track expansion almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille and across Sand Creek and Sandpoint, Idaho, would impose on regional communities and watersheds [1].  We ask that you, too, comment and sign this Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project: THANKS!

Unknown Date: BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March!

Since the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) closed its extended, May 1 deadline for public hearings and comments on the draft environmental assessment (EA) of BNSF’s north Idaho, railroad bridge expansion proposal, WIRT activists, board members, and allied groups have been preparing for the still undetermined, USCG decision and scheming upcoming, rapid-response, Sandpoint and regional marches [2, 3].  Announced within days of an outcome, during the next few weeks or months, these #No2ndBridge solidarity marches will either celebrate a Sandpoint City Council-requested, community-preferred, Coast Guard recommendation for a full environmental impact statement (EIS) studying all the environmental and socioeconomic implications of the project, or they will protest USCG issuance of a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and less scientifically rigorous, final EA.  As we vigilantly coordinate march locations, activities, and speakers, not to mention EIS-advocating attorneys, please circulate the attached, event flyer, notify your contacts, and RSVP your intentions to participate in these critical demonstrations.  Expect ongoing, issue updates and a flash-action alert with march information, via WIRT email notes, weekly radio programs, and facebook and website posts.

July 30 & 31: Indigenous Climate Summit in Spokane

With an abstract sent on June 30, WIRT requested the possibilities of giving a three-minute, “lightning” talk and presenting a poster at the 2019 Tribes and First Nations Climate Change Summit, held at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Airway Heights (Spokane), Washington, on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 30 to 31 [4, 5].  Organizers for the event hosts, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), accepted our abstract entitled Regional Resistance to Fossil Fuels Pipelines on Rails and Bridges, but could not fit WIRT’s few-minute, #No2ndBridge talk into the agenda [6].  During the poster session from 5 to 7 pm on Tuesday, we hope to share information with Northwest tribes, whom federal agencies have not properly consulted, about proposed, BNSF expansion of its north Idaho, pipeline-on-rails bridges, for hauling Alberta tar sands, Bakken crude oil, and Powder River Basin coal.  Although the summit focuses primarily on climate change adaptation policies, we plan to interject suggestions for banning the infrastructure expansion and confronting the corporate and government sources of the fossil fuels perpetuation of the climate crisis.  Purposely frugal, radical, WIRT rejecters of the capitalism that supports fossil fuels destruction and corruption greatly appreciate ongoing, community support and three WIRT contributors who generously donated through the WIRT website button, toward the $215 registration and table fees required to host a WIRT outreach table at the conference [7, 8].

July 31 to August 3: Third Remember the Water Canoe Paddle

Canoe families and river warriors are continuing the annual tradition of the Kalispel and allied tribal, Remember the Water canoe journey, and welcome everyone to participate in different parts of the trip [9, 10].  This year, two legs of this paddle begin on Wednesday, July 31, at Priest Lake and on Thursday, August 1, at Sandpoint City Beach, then combine in Oldtown and finish at the Kalispel reservation, during the start of the Powwow on Saturday, July 3.  The dugout canoes will paddle from the Beaver Creek Campground to upper Priest Lake on Thursday, August 1, to search for rock art, pick berries, and fish.  They will next portage to the Oldtown ramp and voyage on the Pend Oreille River, to a boat-in camp on Downs Island on Friday, August 2.

Another canoe will depart Sandpoint City Beach at 9 am, after 8 am breakfast in the park, on Thursday, August 1.  Paddlers on this difficult 21 miles of Pend Oreille lake and river request that participants bring plenty of food and other provisions and be properly prepared for a solid day of work on the water.  The organizer guarantees that up to 15 first-day paddlers will receive large, free, personally-picked, huckleberry pies, available on Saturday, August 3, after landing at the Kalispel Powwow, where tribal representatives hope to recognize the paddlers before the 11 am grand entry and barbeque.

Visitors and paddlers can also join the canoe journey on Friday at Oldtown, Pioneer Park, or Sandy Shores near Newport, or on Saturday at Char Springs, Greggs Addition, Bear Paw Campground, Pondoray Shores or Davis roads, or the Usk General Store.  Contact Betty Jo Piengkham through posted phone or email avenues, for further information about the Priest Lake and later launches [9].  Send a facebook message to Nathan Piengkham, to offer food and paddling assistance for the Sandpoint leg of the canoe journey [10].  Safe paddling, everyone! Continue reading

Portland Tar Sands Terminal Comments, Moscow Oil & Gas Talk, Monthly WIRT Meetings, Idaho Lakes Rulemaking


As prompted and supported by this Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) newsletter, please consider maximizing your opportunities to participate in resistance to a Portland, tar sands export, train terminal, a southern Idaho, oil and gas issues presentation in Moscow, rescheduled, monthly, WIRT meetings in Sandpoint and Moscow, and further, public comments and hearings on Idaho navigable lakes, negotiated rulemaking.

Portland Tar Sands Terminal Forum & Comments

Anticipating a big crowd on Monday evening, July 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, at the University of Portland Buckley Center (5000 North Willamette Boulevard), Portland City Commissioners are hosting a public forum and hearing on the Zenith Energy tar sands crude oil terminal on the Willamette River in northwest Portland [1-2].  In 2016, the Commissioners banned new, bulk, fossil fuel terminals, but this company has pre-existing permits.  Although the City is not currently deliberating any Zenith decisions, this listening session provides an important opportunity to again wear red, share concerns, and demand action.  More than seven organizations encouraging participation in the meeting suggest requesting that the City deny all Zenith permits to expand its terminal capacity and dangerous oil-by-rail, for the following, described reasons [1].  Between April 21 and 28, 2019, Extinction Rebellion Portland twice stopped tar sands trains for four days, with 11 arrested and other blockaders amidst a “victory over fossil fuels” garden planted on the terminal tracks [3].

As a former asphalt plant, Zenith has gradually converted its terminal to exporting tar sands crude, and has transformed regional rail lines to less voluminous, Keystone XL pipelines.  Climate-wrecking, Canadian, tar sands extraction and Northwest transportation and production threaten the health and safety of First Nations and their air, water, lands, and traditional subsistence practices.  Two mid-winter, tar sands train derailments and fires in northern Ontario in 2015 proved that “dilbit” (diluted bitumen) is as volatile and flammable as Bakken crude.  Oil companies mix diluents with bitumen (the tar drawn from tar sands) to form more fluid and transportable oil.  But this crude contains odorless and deadly hydrogen sulfide gas that is heavier than air and accumulates in low places if leaked.  Worse than any other grade of oil, dilbit also sinks to the beds of water bodies when spilled, while its diluents evaporate and seriously sicken or kill nearby communities.

According to the Washington Department of Ecology, one to two Alberta and Saskatchewan, tar sands trains pass through Sandpoint and Spokane every week.  Because “Ecology” does not require oil train reports from out-of-state destinations, additional such trains could also be moving across the Northwest toward Portland.  They usually travel south from Canada, through western Washington or north Idaho and Spokane, along the Columbia River, and through Camas and Vancouver, southwest Washington, before crossing the rail bridge to north Portland.  Idaho observers of the Union Pacific Railroad line, which needs more citizen monitors, note that oil train numbers have increased during the last year.  #No2ndBridge activists watching the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway tracks through Sandpoint fear that potentially derailed, sinkable tar sands trains may traverse the Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge [4].  Portland, Seattle, and Sandpoint trainspotters are working together to determine tar sands train routes and numbers, but request more north Idaho assistance: Contact WIRT if you can help! Continue reading

Stop Oil Trains 2019 Actions


Regional events mark the Lac-Mégantic and Mosier disaster anniversaries

North Idaho and eastern Washington activists invite everyone to participate in the sixth annual, networked, Stop Oil Trains actions and workshops on Friday, June 28, through Monday, July 1, a week earlier than usual, due to Fourth of July, Canada Day, and local concert festivities on the following weekends.  The five events honor and commemorate the 47 lives lost and downtowns devastated by oil train derailments, spills, explosions, and fires in the lakeside village of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, the Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016, and all rail corridor communities threatened and degraded by crude oil pipelines-on-rails.

During the six years since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, dozens of similar accidents have wrecked public and environmental health and safety and the global climate – more than in the previous four decades.  Nonetheless, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway carries 22 volatile, Bakken crude oil trains every week, while Union Pacific hauls one to two trains of equally explosive and irretrievably sinkable tar sands per week, along and over rivers, lakes, and tributaries throughout north Idaho and the Northwest, such as the Kootenai, Clark Fork, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Columbia, and other water bodies.  Over 90 percent of these shipments must cross rail bridges above downtown Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille, where BNSF plans to drive 1000-plus piles into train-spewed, lake and stream bed, coal deposits, threatened bull trout critical habitat, and regional lake and aquifer drinking water, to construct three permanent, parallel, second (and later third) rail bridges, two temporary, work spans, and two miles of doubled tracks west of the current rail line, for riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional, oil and other train traffic.

The north Idaho community continues to actively oppose, through public processes, protests, and lawsuits, BNSF’s fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails expansion, as we await and prepare for worst-case-scenario, project decisions by the lead agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, in charge of bridge permits and environmental and socioeconomic review, and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, overseeing dredge, fill, and wetland activities.  Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) has been scheming further legal maneuvers, since railroad and state lawyers convinced a Moscow judge to dismiss our expensive, district court case against the Idaho Department of Lands encroachment permit in late March 2019, after the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a Clean Water Act water quality certification for the project in September 2018.  With the #No2ndBridge situation soon quickly intensifying, we are arranging regional marches in response to those federal agency announcements, and coordinating a north Idaho, direct action camp with visiting trainers, on Friday through Sunday, September 6 to 8 [1].  As part of WIRT’s yearly Panhandle Paddle, which always offers an issue forum, training workshops, and a flotilla around the railroad bridges, action camp skills-sharing bolsters inland Northwest communities in the crosshairs of the coal, oil, and railroad industries [2].

Sandpoint, Spokane, Moscow, and Missoula activists of 350, Direct Action, Occupy, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, WIRT, and regional, allied groups have participated with thousands of people around the Northwest and North America, in multiple, public, Stop Oil Trains actions and the one-year anniversary convergence supporting Mosier, hosted by conservation and climate groups [3-5].  Please join concerned citizens in these upcoming outreach, training, and demonstration events, to demand an immediate ban of all Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil extraction and train and pipeline transportation, refusing to let Big Oil risk our air, waters, lands, families, friends, homes, and businesses.  Together, in appreciation and solidarity with grassroots and indigenous, environmental and social justice activists across Canada and the U.S., we are organizing various tactics and resources to stage powerful, effective actions defending and protecting frontline communities and the global climate impacted by oil-by-rail pollution and accidents.  Thanks to everyone who has provided invaluable, relevant information, connections, and on-the-ground support for these events.  We welcome your ideas, questions, suggestions, and assistance at these upcoming actions: Reply through the enclosed, contact channels or on-site.  Expect ongoing, issue descriptions and updates, via WIRT facebook posts and website pages. Continue reading

Idaho Lake Rules, Moscow Oil & Gas Talk, Sandpoint WIRT Meeting


Idaho Navigable Lakes Negotiated Rulemaking

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is initiating negotiated rulemaking until July 12, and holding statewide, public meetings during early June, for IDAPA 20.03.04, the administrative rules “governing the regulation of beds, waters, and airspace over navigable lakes in the state of Idaho” [1].  These modifications may directly result from Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) litigation of different sections of these rules, in our eight-month petition for judicial review of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s IDL-granted, June 2018, encroachment permit for proposed rail bridges across Sand Creek and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille.  We will provide more information for your comments, extracted from court records and insights, through a WIRT website post during the next few weeks [2].  IDL is holding 5 pm MDT or PDT, public hearings in Sandpoint on Monday, June 17, in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday, June 18, in McCall on Wednesday, June 19, and in Boise on Thursday, June 20.

Oil & Gas Issues Presentation in Moscow

The Moscow Sustainable Environment Commission (SEC) is hosting a Skyped talk by Shelley Brock of Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA) at 7:15 pm on Tuesday, June 18, at the Water Operations Building, 201 North Main Street in Moscow.  Shelley will discuss oil and gas fracking and acidizing issues in Idaho, including citizen court challenges of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) integration process that forces landowners to lease their privately owned mineral rights to oil and gas companies.  WIRT encourages you to attend, videotape, and/or record this Moscow City Council Commission meeting that will consider Shelley’s report and take further, appropriate actions.  Please see the linked, meeting agenda, and/or contact SEC at sec@ci.moscow.id.us or 208-883-7133 [3].

Monthly Sandpoint WIRT Meeting

WIRT activists would greatly appreciate your help in arranging summer presentations, training workshops, direct actions, and probable litigation, while reaching out to trustworthy and competent activists and attorneys across our regional network.  From among the good company of too few radicals always striving to slow and stop too many corporate conquests, WIRT invites you to attend a June potluck gathering, talk about tactics, offer your unique advice and assistance, and pursue your climate activism passion with us.  As during previous seasons, we are meeting at 7 pm on the third Wednesday of every month: June 19 at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint. Continue reading

Idaho Navigable Lakes Negotiated Rulemaking


WIRT Comments on Docket 20-0304-1901 Negotiated Rulemaking

On July 12, 2019, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) provided these extensive, written, still publicly un-posted comments to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), for negotiated rulemaking on IDAPA 20.03.04, the administrative rules “governing the regulation of beds, waters, and airspace over navigable lakes in the state of Idaho,” and as information extracted from court records and litigation insights, available for other, public comments [*].  We encourage participation in this IDL rulemaking comment period through and beyond July 12, attendance of statewide, public meetings, and requests for additional public hearings contingent on the unaddressed issues and citizen-unfavorable outcomes arising from the present proceedings.  Public meetings have or will occur as stated on the IDL website [*]:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 5 pm MDT

Idaho State University, Student Union Building, Salmon River Suite (third floor)

1065 Cesar Chavez, Pocatello, Idaho

Monday, June 17, 2019, 5 pm PDT

Bonner County Administrative Building, First Floor Conference Room

1500 Highway 2, Sandpoint, Idaho

Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 5 pm PDT

IDL Coeur d’Alene Office, Sundance Conference Room

3284 West Industrial Loop, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 5 pm MDT

Idaho First Bank, Basement Conference Room

475 Deinhard Lane, McCall, Idaho

Thursday, June 20, 2019, 5 pm MDT

Idaho Capitol Building, Majority Caucus Room (W-433, fourth floor)

700 West Jefferson Street, Boise, Idaho

[*] Public Trust: Rulemaking for IDAPA 20.03.04, Docket 20-0304-1901, Idaho Department of Lands

BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March!


Thanks to each of you for your diligent, ongoing, resistance work on the north Idaho, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway bridge expansion issue!  Since Wild Idaho Rising Tide’s (WIRT) #No2ndBridge Protest #3 and the extended, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), draft environmental assessment (EA) comment deadline on May 1, WIRT board members, activists, and allied groups have been scheming a Sandpoint area march on an unknown but rapid-response date [*].  The march will either celebrate the still undetermined, Coast Guard decision to recommend a full environmental impact statement (EIS) studying the implications of BNSF’s proposed railroad bridges across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, and Sandpoint, or protest USCG issuance of a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and less scientifically rigorous, final EA.

Because the involved Sandpoint, Spokane, Moscow, and Missoula organizations are so proficient at together rallying successful, similar, regional marches and public hearings, we are asking for your and their assistance in co-planning, publicizing, and staging this event.  Please share your ideas about this opportunity (best locations, activities, speakers, days and times of the week, etc.), notify your contacts about this upcoming march via phone, email, texts, and facebook messages, and especially RSVP your intentions to participate in this critical demonstration, by responding to this email note or the facebook event [*].  We need your preparation help with inviting and bringing at least 75 to 100 people to this Sandpoint area, family-friendly march and regionally coordinated solidarity actions.  Please circulate the BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March Flyer, check the WIRT facebook and website pages for updates, and expect a flash-action alert with further event information, within days of a Coast Guard decision during the next few weeks or months.

Please consider contributing physically and/or fiscally to WIRT campaigns confronting the fossil fuel sources of climate change, at our mailing addresses or online at Donate to WIRT.  Thanks!

[*] BNSF Bridges EIS or EA March!

#No2ndBridge Protest #3 & Extended Comments


#No2ndBridge Protest #3

At the third of many likely demonstrations, please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and indigenous and climate activists for regional resistance to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway expansion of its fossil fuels and hazardous materials pipelines-on-rails tracks and two temporary and three permanent bridges across the recreation, tourism, and vacation destination town of Sandpoint, Idaho,  through the downtown marinas, hotels, restaurants, and shops along Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Idaho’s largest, deepest, forested mountain lake, Pend Oreille, home waters of the Kalispel and inland Northwest tribes and the critical habitat of threatened bull trout.  Bring protest signs, banners, voices, and snacks to share, along with the inspiration of speakers, drums, and prayers among fellow, water protectors and concerned, community members, at this frontline, Dog Beach Park rally southeast of Sandpoint, at 1 pm on Sunday, April 28.

#No2ndBridge Extended Comments

Perhaps due to the procedural mistakes of the lead, federal agency overseeing BNSF bridge permits and project analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), over 2,300 written and spoken comments opposing the project and demanding better environmental review, and WIRT and allied requests to extend the comment period to 90 days, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) re-opened for another 30 days (77 total days), until 9 pm on Wednesday, May 1, your potentially last chance to comment on BNSF’s insufficient, draft environmental assessment (EA) of benefits and harms resulting from BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector project [1].  Although NEPA guidelines suggest preparation of concise EAs with no more than 10 to 15 pages, the length alone of the current, BNSF/Jacobs Engineering/U.S. Coast Guard, draft EA, with 116 pages and 12 appendices, indicates that an environmental impact statement (EIS) is needed for such a complex, flawed proposal with significant, but difficult to determine, environmental effects [2, 3].

For further information and comment suggestion resources to assist your letter, see the enclosed links and continually updated posts on the WIRT facebook and website pages [4-6].  Please search for USCG-2018-1085 at the federal, e-rulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov), and review your project issue(s) of concern among the draft EA documents.  With your individually unique comments addressing draft EA deficiencies and offering counter-facts, provide personal reasons and affiliations for your project-affected interests and your specific, substantive objections to BNSF project-inflicted harms.  Through the “Comment Now” button, respectfully ask the Coast Guard for:

1) A draft EA comment period extension to 120 days, to better engage seasonal and summer residents and diverse stakeholders,

2) Public, draft EA, and EIS scoping hearings, involving all pertinent agencies, organizations, and citizens, held in the most impacted city, Sandpoint,

3) Core samples and analysis of pollution in the lake bed, railroad right-of-way/easement,

4) Broader considerations of alternative, bridge and location designs and options, especially a rail route off the lake,

5) A more scientifically rigorous, unbiased, independent (not BNSF-contracted), full environmental impact study and statement that comprehensively evaluate the significant, direct, indirect, and cumulative project impacts, and

6) Inclusion of your remarks and accompanying material, supporting an EIS, not a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and final EA, in the public record and final decisions for docket USCG-2018-1085.

Besides writing and posting your comments to USCG at Regulations.gov, also send them to the following agency officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (regulating dredge and fill discharges and wetland impacts through a pending permit), the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (overseeing project water quality impacts with a Clean Water Act section 401 certification issued on September 21, 2018), and the Idaho Department of Lands (rubberstamping lake bed and water impacts with an encroachment permit granted on June 21, 2018, and challenged by WIRT, but dismissed on statutory standing grounds by Idaho district courts).

If you and your friends and family cannot find time to write to the Coast Guard and other agencies, we encourage you to sign with your comments WIRT’s Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, which lists significant impacts of railroad bridge construction and operation on multiple, pertinent factors [7].  We will send petition signatures and remarks posted by midnight on April 30 to the Coast Guard et al.

#No2ndBridge Background & Context Continue reading

Forced Pooling & Acid Fracking in Idaho


Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) is completing newsletters about eighth WIRT celebrations, dismissal of our state court case against doubled, north Idaho, railroad bridges, a re-opened, Coast Guard, comment period on that BNSF proposal, and other related topics, delayed by a recent week of long-overdue rest.  But we are sending this 2019, southwest Idaho, oil and gas information first, drawn from WIRT facebook posts and lodged on the WIRT website on April 17, in solidarity and support of a Tuesday evening, April 16, talk in Moscow.

CAIA Presentation in Moscow

The Moscow Sustainable Environment Commission (SEC) will host a Skyped, slide presentation and talk by Shelley Brock of Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA) at 7:15 pm on Tuesday, April 16, at the Water Operations Building, 201 North Main Street in Moscow, Idaho [1].  Shelley will discuss oil and gas well issues in Idaho, including landowner and CAIA, legal challenges of state forced pooling/integration processes, by which the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Department of Lands force property owners to lease their mineral resources and rights to oil and gas companies.  Please attend this insightful event and/or contact SEC at sec@ci.moscow.id.us or 208-883-7133, for further information.

Forced Pooling Court Decisions & Public Input

“U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill had ruled in August that the Idaho Department of Lands’ procedure for forcing mineral rights from unconsenting owners into pools for extraction violated due process.  After Winmill reaffirmed the ruling on February 1, the state faced a deadline early in March to formally appeal…CAIA, an Eagle-based group which had joined in the suit challenging the forced pooling methods, noted…that the state had opted not to contest Winmill’s ruling…Idaho Department of Lands hasn’t announced next steps to address the due process shortcoming [2].

…Unlike the CAIA-led suit against Idaho gas and oil regulators, the class action complaint filed March 1 in Payette County was brought by [nine local] lessors who signed [six] agreements to lease their mineral rights.  The complaint seeks to end [gas producer] Alta Mesa’s alleged practice of deducting a portion of the producer’s midstream expenses from the lessors’ royalty checks [that the oil and gas leases do not expressly authorize].  It also points to a requirement under the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Act that interest of 12 percent be added to royalty payments not paid within 60 days of their due date…The action is brought on behalf of the class of all ‘persons who are or were royalty owners in Idaho wells where defendants [various Alta Mesa entities and others] are or were the operator…from January 1, 2014 to the date class notice is given…The class claims relate to royalty payments for gas and its constituents (such as residue gas, natural gas liquids, or drip condensate)’” [2].

Despite a Tuesday, April 9, deadline for comments, please write an email to Kourtney Romine (kromine@idl.idaho.gov) at the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and blind-copy your input to CAIA (sb-caia@hotmail.com), objecting to the state practice of forced lease pooling that allows oil and gas drilling operations against property and mineral owners’ wishes, and providing suggestions for better processes to protect vulnerable communities from similar, future activities, as prompted by the linked, CAIA, talking points and ideally regulated by proposed rulemaking [3].  If possible, also attend and/or watch the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (IOGCC) hearing at 1 pm on Tuesday, April 23, to pack room EW 42 of the state capitol and/or testify for three minutes about “just and reasonable” terms for future, forced pooling applications that impose inadequate compensation and profound risks on Idaho citizens.  Thanks to Shelley Brock of CAIA for her action alert!

Acid Fracking of Payette County Wells

Since July 2018, Alta Mesa has been matrix acidizing the tight sandstone formation reservoirs reached by Payette County oil and gas wells, with extremely hazardous hydrofluoric acid and xylene, chemically dissolving deposits and stimulating hydrocarbon flow under lower pressures than hydraulic fracturing (fracking), without providing essential information, undergoing application review, and sending final reports on well treatments and waste fluid disposal to state regulators, who did not file an unpublicized, administrative complaint and charges until February 5, 2019.  Meanwhile, IDL and Alta Mesa officials have countered numerous citizen concerns about hydraulic fracturing with public statements like one by Lieutenant Governor Brad Little during a televised, late-October 2018, gubernatorial debate: “There is no fracking in Idaho” [4].  Hundreds of informal, WIRT petition signatures against fracking and associated waste injection wells were stolen from a vehicle within days of that broadcast. Continue reading

#No2ndBridge Comment Deadline, Hearings, Petitions, & 8th WIRT Celebrations


Coast Guard Draft EA Hearings

Thanks to the dozens of citizens who participated in the public hearings hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) at the Ponderay Events Center, on Wednesday, March 13!  The heartwarming demonstrations of strong, thoughtful, regional resistance to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway proposal to build second train bridges over Sand Creek and Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint and Bonner County witnessed 23 of 29 testifiers speaking against the project: All seven at the 8 am meeting, and 16 of 22 at the 6 pm proceedings.  Collectively and abundantly, our community possesses plenty of knowledge and passion to heavily supplement the project’s public record with counter-information, and to exhaust all administrative remedies, as we expect better outcomes than from rigged, state hearings and comments.

Offering most of three hours of testimony on the inadequate, draft environmental assessment (EA) for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector project, opponents raised concerns about rail infrastructure expansion impacts on air and water quality, lakebed, mining and coal pollution disturbance, bull trout and other fish, nesting birds, construction noise, traffic, and economic effects, related industrial ventures, lake earthquake scenarios, global climate change from coal- and oil-by-rail exports, catastrophic, oil and hazardous chemical derailments, and more railroad neglect of spills into the watershed [1, 2].  Critics also faulted the draft EA with failure to engage and consult Native tribes and to consider recent seismic activity in bridge plans, overly optimistic impact projections, and insufficient spill-response plans and equipment, all calling for an independent, full environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Six railroad supporters, trackside residents, and apparent, labor union, bridge construction accomplices voiced favor for the purported economic benefits, relieved road and rail traffic congestion, and reduced semi-trucks of displaced railroad freight anticipated by the project.  They talked about elimination of train and vehicle bottlenecks across the lake and at crossings, track maintenance and safety, and the supposed success of the U.S. Highway 95 Sand Creek Byway.

Drawing on insights from our ongoing, state encroachment permit lawsuit, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists provided several, legally defensible points extemporaneously and prepared from our research, email alerts, and comment suggestions offered by other groups [3, 4].  In our oral comments, we noted regional and nationwide, BNSF derailment numbers, conditions, and history, possible connections between the proposed, Newport, Washington, silicon smelter and BNSF bridge and track expansion in north Idaho, and lack of USCG notification of navigation-impact commenters about a subsequently prolonged comment period and changed, lake and creek bridge designs, which drew audience gasps.  WIRT also mentioned incomplete or non-existent consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on threatened bull trout and its critical habitat in the project area, and with regional, sovereign nations, except the Kootenai and especially missing the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe of a WIRT board member.

However, WIRT activists were surprised by allied organization’s unnecessary, public statements at the hearings, about their neutral positions neither supporting nor opposing the BNSF bridge project, which foist the burden of commitment to court challenges and physical resistance of agency decision and permit outcomes on overworked, volunteer, regional community groups.  We have received no replies to our request for their explanations of motivations behind these most disheartening remarks.

Hearing & Bridge Issue Reports

WIRT photographed and recorded most, but not all, of the March 13, morning and evening hearing testimony for facebook-posting and broadcasting on our weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, produced by climate activists for over seven years, for progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow [5, 6].  Besides news and reflections describing continent-wide resistance to fossil fuel projects, the root causes of climate change, and related topics, we aired the morning hearing during the last half-hour of the March 13 show, and the first half of the evening hearing on the March 20 edition, both temporarily available for listening on Radio Free America, by searching for KRFP, and viewing its full archive of Wednesday shows [7].  Tune in to 90.3 FM and online next (and every!) Wednesday, between 1:30 and 3 pm Pacific time, to hear the last hour of the evening, March 13 hearing [8].

Considering that “public” television and Idaho welcome ads and funds from fossil fuel companies, we are not surprised that an Idaho public television program about Lake Pend Oreille lingered long on depicting Kalispel home lands/waters and lake fisheries issues culminating with bull trout, but never identified it as an endangered species, before the show launched into the railroad history and context of the #No2ndBridge battle (between 34:45 and 38:30), but never mentioned proposed, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails construction in bull trout’s federally-designated critical habitat in the lake [9].  At least, the one-hour presentation revealed the natural beauty and jeopardized health of our Panhandle region.

#No2ndBridge Comments by Monday, March 25

As the lead, federal agency overseeing BNSF bridge permits and project analysis under NEPA, the Coast Guard needs to hear from north Idahoans and our regional neighbors, via the potentially last opportunity to request that the USCG require additional impact evaluations through an EIS, instead of issuing a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and final EA.  Individually unique comments, which substantively address the deficiencies of the draft EA documents and processes and the BNSF project, provide the counterbalance of local wisdom so crucial to community protection of our watershed.  With only days remaining to act, see the WIRT website and facebook pages for further information to assist your letter, and share your earnest, public input efforts with your friends and family.

Please search for and review your project issue(s) of concern among the draft EA documents at the federal e-rulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov), and identify docket number USCG-2018-1085 in your respectful comments accepted until 9 pm on Monday, March 25.  Ask the Coast Guard to include your remarks and accompanying facts in the public record for this project, for an extension to 90 days for this winter-inappropriate, comment period, to better involve seasonal residents, for hearings in the most impacted community, Sandpoint, for considerations of alternative rail and bridge routes, for core samples of pollution in the lake bed, railroad right-of-way/easement, and for a more scientifically rigorous, unbiased, environmental impact study and statement examining this BNSF scheme.  WIRT activists eagerly anticipate and appreciate everyone’s initiative, expertise, and advocacy during this decisive, project review phase.

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