Monty Pearce's Push 

New Plymouth Republican labors to strip local authority on drill permits

click to enlarge House Bill 464 would restrict local governments' ability to say no to drilling.

Laurie Pearman

House Bill 464 would restrict local governments' ability to say no to drilling.

Republican Sen. Monty Pearce kept pushing. He pushed House Bill 464 through the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, of which he's chairman. He continued pushing the measure when it hit the full Senate floor. And when a good number of his colleagues--both Republican and Democrat--asked to amend the bill, he ignored their effort and pushed back once more in an effort to pass legislation that would strip local authority on permitting oil and gas exploration.

To date, Pearce has fully supported all oil and gas industry-sponsored legislation at the Statehouse. Even when members of his own party asked to reconsider HB 464 over concerns that Idaho municipalities were being dismissed, Pearce was having none of it.

"Do we really want to open up this can of worms?" asked Pearce.

But a number of legislators on both sides of the aisle wanted to talk about a lot more than worms.

"This is a serious, serious bill," said Rupert Republican Sen. Dean Cameron. "This is one of the most important issues we'll address this year. I want the oil and gas industry to succeed, but I have grave reservations about this."

Ketchum Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett said she was perplexed why conservatives such as Pearce would support a bill that was guilty of the same tactic that they accused the federal government of. In particular, Stennett pointed to Senate Joint Memorial 105, criticizing feds for "disrespecting the role of states and local governments."

"We become upset with the federal government when they disrespect our local decisions," said Stennett. "Yet here we are, doing the same thing to our local entities."

Boise Republican Sen. Mitch Toryanski said he also supported oil and gas exploration but agreed with Stennett and Cameron in thinking the measure needed fixing.

"Our economy depends upon us extracting these natural resources," said Toryanski. "But I think this bill can be improved. We can inspire a lot more confidence in the public in this process, and I think that's important."

Toryanski asked that the legislation be sent to the Senate's 14th Order for amendments. His motion ended in a 17-17 tie with Lt. Gov. Brad Little agreeing with Toryanski's plea and breaking the tie.

But in a stunning turnaround on March 12, Pearce moved to send the bill back for a full vote without any amendments. This time Pearce had the votes and the majority agreed, setting up one more push from the New Plymouth senator--presumably for the last time--to see HB 464 become the law of the land, no matter what local municipalities think of it.

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