Friday, January 20, 2006

Don't rush coal plants


Idaho legislators should pause and reflect how damage to the nation's environment has been accelerated since the Bush administration began a virtual hands-off, non-enforcement policy of pollution rules.

Such indifference is not good for Idaho's tourist industry. Lawmakers with even a shred of environmental or economic concern should look favorably on legislation state Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, is introducing to control siting and operations of the first coal-fired power plants in Idaho.

The bills make good sense. One sets mercury emission standards. Another creates a council to review plant sites with environmental and social concerns in mind. Another requires nearby counties to be notified when a plant is proposed. "Merchant" generating plants built primarily to sell electricity out of state would be controlled the same as other utilities.

The most urgent of the bills proposes a moratorium on approval of any new plants while Idaho gets a grip on their impacts.

Plants near Pocatello and Jerome are in the planning stage. More may be on the way. As Stennett suggests, plant builders may have targeted Idaho for operations because they suspect Idahoans are rubes who can be easily romanced with talk of jobs and prosperity into accepting smokestack industry with no questions.

Legislators who cling to the laissez faire ideology that business-is-business should wake up from their dream world.

Plants that spew emissions can devastate Idaho's renowned environment and natural resources, the physical well-being of residents and the economic health of downwind communities, especially those in the Wood River Valley.

The Legislature should welcome a moratorium on these plants while they consider the consequences.




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