Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Officials applaud mercury decision


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Idaho Gov. Jim Risch's announcement last week that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality should opt out of a federal mercury cap and trade program was met with a chorus of agreement from other politicians.

"I'm very appreciative of Gov. Risch's decision," said Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall. "Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known to man. Why anybody would want it in their state is beyond me."

Hall, on behalf of the City Council, sent Risch a letter last month stating the city's opposition to the program, which allows states to trade pollution credits with an overall goal of reducing mercury emissions nationwide.

Mercury is a neurotoxin that is especially harmful to pregnant women and children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Idaho currently has no coal-fired power plants, which are known to emit mercury, so it has a cap of zero emissions.

Opting into the program would have allowed a coal-fired power plant to locate in Idaho by enabling the plant to purchase pollution credits from other states that have not met their mercury emissions allowance.

State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said she was pleased with the decision.

"I'm delighted he opted out," she said. "I was very, very hopeful, and I thought he probably would do that. There was a lot more information that helped him make the right decision. People really woke up about what opting in really meant."

While opting in is permanent, opting out is not. That means the next governor of Idaho could issue a new ruling.

The two candidates running for the seat, however, both said they agree with the decision to opt out.

"Rep. Butch Otter said the governor made the right decision, and he supports it," said Mark Warbis, communications director at Otter's congressional office.

If Otter were elected, Warbis added, he would maintain that stance.

"I think you could probably read that into it," he said.

The Democratic candidate for governor, Jerry Brady, also stated support for the ruling.

"Risch's decision is the right decision," Brady said in a news release. "But Idaho's next governor will need to make decisions for a clean energy future, rather than an energy policy dictated by the power companies."

Last fall, local officials sent a letter to the DEQ, requesting the agency opt out of the cap and trade program.

Signatories were Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson, Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant, then-Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, Bellevue Mayor Jon Anderson, Carey Mayor Rick Baird, and Blaine County Commission Chairwoman Sarah Michael.

"I appreciate all the efforts that everybody in Blaine County went through sending letters and lobbying all their legislators to keep mercury out of our state," Hall said.




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