Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Packed Conference Weighs In On Gas Drilling, Fracking

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 3:33 PM

An afternoon filled with geosciences is not a typical crowd-pleaser. But it was standing room only at Boise's Owyhee Plaza Hotel this afternoon as the Idaho Environmental Forum hosted a roundtable conversation concerning Idaho's natural gas industry.

The controversial method of fracking - injecting high-pressured fluids into wells to enchance gas flows - was a main topic among lawmakers, conservationists, attorneys and even geologists.

"I would be much happier if lawmakers would call on our science and technical expertise more often," said Dr. Viginia Gillerman of the Idaho Geological Survey. "Ultimately, I think we have to have wise resource utilization."

Eric Wilson of the Idaho Department of Lands, who helmed last summer's marathon meetings that resulted in new rules for the oil and gas industry, said the new document was groundbreaking.

"This 57-page rule is very important," said Wilson." We had discussions that were quite spirited. I think I once called it a cage match."

Justin Hayes, program director for the Idaho Conservation League, praised many of the new rules but pushed back on a few others.

"These rules still allow the use of carcinogenic materials when fracking," said Hayes. "All I know is that I will drive as fast as the speed limit allows. I expect gas exploration companies to behave the same way with these rules."

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Lawmakers: Look For Measures on Grizzlies, Voluntary Park Passes for Cars

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Republican Sen. Monty Pearce of New Plymouth, the six-term legislator representing District 9, is one of the Idaho Legislature's main gatekeepers. As chairman of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, a wide range of issues cross his desk before becoming bills or laws. Measures involving water rights, gas drilling and wolves all pass through his committee.

At this afternoon's Idaho Environmental Forum, Pearce hinted that the issue of grizzlies might surface in the 2012 Legislature.

"We see a lot more conflicts with grizzly bears now," said Pearce. "More bears are being killed and a lot of people want to consider some of the lands that Idahoans use where grizzlies live."

Pearce's counterpart in the Idaho House is Republican Rep. John Stevenson of Rupert, eight-term legislator from District 26, who is chairman of the House Resources and Conservation Committee.

"One of the more interesting things that you'll see is a proposal from Parks and Recreation," said Stevenson. "They're going to ask for a $10 vehicle registration for our state parks, but it would be entirely voluntary. They say it could generate as much as $1 million."

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Idaho Woman: 'I Cried a Lot' When Medicaid Services Were Cut

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:30 PM

A unique roundtable this morning featured members of law enforcement, health care providers and advocates for the disabled. But the discussion also included the voices and faces of Medicaid.

Krystal, who asked that her last name not be used at the roundtable, is a 22-year-old who has struggled her entire life with an intellectual disability and bipolar disorder. She also has a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome.

For two years, she said, she was doing well, living in her own apartment and holding down a job. But she needed her therapy along with psychosocial rehabilitation counseling. Her PSR services were threatened last year, in the wake of the Idaho Legislature's decision to cut tens of millions of dollars from Medicaid and other services.

"When I was told that I had to choose between my fundamental therapy and my PSR services, I cried a lot," said Krystal. "How am I supposed to deal with my life? It makes me feel I can't be a civilized person in Idaho."

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Bill to Evict Occupy Boise Introduced to Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:02 PM

A bill has been formally introduced at the Idaho Legislature that, if passed, would result in the eviction of Occupy Boise from the grounds in front of the old Ada County Courthouse.

House Majority Leader Scott Bedke, whose hometown of Oakley is three hours away from Boise, introduced a measure this morning that would make it an infraction to camp on the grounds.

"This is a prohibition on camping on the lawns of the Capitol Mall," explained Bedke, who said he crafted the bill after consultation with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.

Boise Democratic Rep. Phylis King voted against the bill's introduction, which will go through a public hearing before a final vote.

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What's Up With Google? Call it SOPA

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Wondering what's going on with Google today or why Wikipedia is blacked out? It's all about a little thing called SOPA.

The Stop Online Piracy Act is a bill sitting in the hands of Congress meant to address the growing issue of online piracy, but many in both the artistic and tech worlds think it's far too broad, allowing for any website accused of directly or indirectly using copyrighted material to be pulled down entirely.

To protest the proposed legislation, mega websites like reddit.com, Wikipedia and boingboing.net have gone black for the day, posting the reason for their protest, as well as links to learn more about the proposal and how to contact your congressional representatives. Google is showing support by placing a black box over its logo while still allowing use.

Find out more about SOPA in next week's edition of Boise Weekly.

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Medicaid Recipients, Providers Ready to Fight Any Further Cuts

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Medicaid Matters roundtable at JRW State Building
  • Medicaid Matters roundtable at JRW State Building.

Boise's first significant snowfall hampered a good many plans today, but when mental health advocates know that Medicaid funding once again hangs in the balance at the Idaho Legislature, they come out in force.

The keyword was "organization" at a unique roundtable this morning, considering the impact of Medicaid in Idaho, which saw nearly $34 million in cuts in state funding last year. Matched with federal funds, Idahoans lost about $70 million in services.

The discussion included input from Medicaid recipients, their service providers, law enforcement and advocates for the disabled and infirmed.

"Our community has begged to have Medicaid back," said Retta Green from Caldwell. "Because people are really suffering."

Mike Ferguson, Idaho's recently retired chief economist and the new director for the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, outlined how the 2010 and 2011 Idaho legislatures continued to "take money off the table," resulting in significant cuts to Medicaid and other services.

"And now the governor is recommending that we put $60 million into a rainy day fund for future reserves," said Ferguson. "But rainy day funds are supposed to be replenished when the weather is better. But the current economy tells us it's still raining."

"Our elected officials should protect the Medicaid program," said Veronica Solis of Boise. "It makes a huge difference in the health of my children and family."

Medicaid provides comprehensive health coverage to more than 210,000 Idahoans—more than 150,000 of them children.

"Four of them are mine," said Terri Sterling of Culdesac.

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Storm wreaks havoc, causing a dozen crashes

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 9:32 AM

By 8 o'clock this morning, the Ada County Sheriff's Office had already reported a dozen crashes and four slide-offs with injuries. Eagle Police also responded to a crash involving a school bus at the intersection of Palmer and West State streets.

The National Weather Service is forecasting snow for much of the day and into this evening. Precipitation in one form or another is expected to be a frequent visitor until Sunday.

Four to 8 inches of snow is expected in the Upper Treasure Valley today, and up to a foot is expected along the Foothills.

Forecasters remind travelers that a winter storm warning for heavy snow means that "significant amounts of snow will make travel dangerous." If you must travel away from the metropolitan area, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

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Legislator: 'Drill, Baby, Drill' Before Voting Yes for New Gas Rules

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 9:24 AM

It took the Idaho Department of Lands and stakeholders much of the summer of 2011 to craft new rules to oversee gas and oil exploration. But it only took one aternoon for the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee to approve the new regulations by a 16-1 vote, with Republican Rep. Dick Harwood of Saint Maries casting the lone no vote, saying the rules were too "overreaching."

If the measure passes through the full House and then the Idaho Senate, Idaho will have new oil and gas drilling guidelines, including oversight on fracking.

"Drill, baby, drill," said Republican Rep. Lenore Barrett of Challis Tuesday afternoon before voting yes.

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Wilder Marine Killed in Afghanistan

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 9:17 AM

An Wilder man became Idaho's 61st casualty of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on Sunday, while conducting combat operations, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A fellow Marine was also killed in the incident.

Lance Cpl. Kenneth Cochran, 20, was a member of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. He was a 2010 graduate of Parma High School.

Details of the incident haven't been released yet by the Department of Defense.

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Bogus: Let it Snow!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 9:14 AM

The ideal snow base for the Bogus Basin Mountain Resort Area is 24 inches. This morning's snowfall helps significantly, because as of Tuesday, the mountain reported just under a foot of snow.

"With 16 inches, we will open any part of the mountain possible," Bogus spokeswoman Gretchen Anderson told Citydesk. For the resort to operate fully, she said, "A good 10 inches would get us there."

Normally, it would take the resort about two days to be open for business, but there is nothing normal about this season - Bogus has already broken its previous record for its latest season opener. Anderson said if there's enough moisture (and there's plenty in the forecast for the next four days), her colleagues could possibly work round-the-clock for a 24-hour turn-around opening.

The long-anticipated snowfall came just in time for tonight's benefit, Get Louder for Powder, in Boise's Basque Block from 5-8 p.m.

If indeed Bogus opens this week or weekend, Anderson said they'll try to keep the mountain open as late in the season as possible, promising that the slopes will stay open, at least on weekends, until spring and "as long as there are customers and snow."

Anderson estimated the loss of Christmas break revenue came close to $2 million. Though the recreational area has been a nonprofit since 1941, charitable donations have only been accepted since 2005.

"Bogus Basin is similar to the YMCA, only on a mountain," explained Anderson, saying tonight's benefit was an opportunity to recoup a bit of lost revenue.

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