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Posts published in “Day: May 12, 2013”

Dear Secretary Jewel

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Noticed a few weeks back where you climbed Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park on a Sunday with your press aide, a reporter from the New York Times, and some National Park Service personnel.

It certainly befit your image as a hard-charging executive into vigorous outdoor activity as one would expect a former REI president, banker and engineer to be. That you are successful, smart and talented cannot be questioned.

How attuned you are to the politics of the Interior Department, both internal
and external, is another question entirely. Candidly, your lack of any
experience in the political world would have disqualified you in my book,
but now that you’re there in the interests of you having a successful tenure
here is some unsolicited advice:

1. Pick the brains of your predecessors. There’s no substitute for experience and there is a wealth of it in your predecessors, both Republicans and Democrats. Look at former secretaries as a Club and a talent pool to be tapped and develop relationships with all of them. Bruce Babbitt, Cecil Andrus, Ken Salazar, Dirk Kempthorne, Gail Norton are all individuals who can and will give discreet counsel if asked.

2. Be aware of fiefdom agendas. Interior is a collection of fiefdoms all
fighting for your ear and your favor, especially at budget time. Many are in actuality run by career bureaucrats who have seen secretaries and political appointees come and go, but they remain and stay focused on their agency goals. You may have liked the symbolism of climbing Old Rag because of the image enhancement it conveyed to the public. I did not because it made me wonder if you were not already being entrapped by the Park Service.

There’s an old saying in politics, “it’s your friends, not your enemies,
whom most often do you in.” Governor Andrus was constantly running into “land mines” being laid for him by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of the fiefdoms that simply decided he was not pure enough on their issues.

3. Fire someone right away and make it stick. There’ll be plenty of candidates but until you demonstrate to the bureaucracy that you know how to fire someone for incompetence and make it stick you’ll not really command respect. Real leaders are not just loved, they are also feared. It takes real skill to fire someone in the federal service given the layers of civil service rules and regulations. It’s easy in the private sector, almost impossible in the public sector.

4. Recognize and embrace Interior’s revenue generation activities. Interior is one of the few federal agencies that generates real money for the treasury - from grazing leases to off-shore oil and gas drilling activities, to coal production to Park fees - there’s a vast gamut of money generators, and a major part of your job is to keep the ka-ching going. Hence, decisions you make on tough issues from oil pipeline permits to the regulations governing “fracturing” on the public lands have to balance the environmental concerns against the economic necessities. Trying to strike the right balance is the challenge. (more…)

A leak in the Caribou country

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

A version of this article originally appeared in Green Markets.

The Bureau of Land Management has given Monsanto until the end of May to submit a corrective action report in regards to an earthen holding pond leaking three million gallons of water onto a meadow near its new Blackfoot Bridge Mine in southeastern Idaho’s phosphate-rich Caribou County.

The March 29 breach along a spillway conduit in a catch basin created a 150-foot-long sediment plume on the wetland, but recent testing of the water showed no elevated selenium levels, said Randy Vranes, Monsanto’s mineral operations manager. State and federal regulatory agencies were alerted to the pond failure.

Selenium is a toxic byproduct created when water reacts with phosphate waste rock or overburden. The catch basin is designed to allow for the controlled release of natural runoff and snow melt water into the meadow.

The Blackfoot Bridge Mine is expected to start operating later this year with a 17-year life expectancy. In June 2011, the BLM approved the 1,469-acre mine, which will disturb about 740 mostly private acres not far from the Blackfoot River.

About 10 percent of it would be on BLM land. Monsanto’s South Rasmussen Mine is expected to be exhausted this year.

Monsanto uses the phosphate from its mines to manufacture elemental phosphorus and Roundup weed killer at its three-furnace plant near Soda Springs.

An engineering design investigation is under way to ensure the new mine’s advanced water management system functions reliably, Monsanto spokesman Trent Clark said, noting the mine’s comprehensive design incorporates many environmental protections.

Jeff Cundick, the BLM’s minerals branch chief in Pocatello, said the failed settling pond is part of a network of ponds controlling surface water runoff. Initial reports indicate as the pond was filling the buoyant force of a 60-inch pipe caused it to float enough to separate its joint and allow water to flow around the outside of the pipe, washing away the dam’s center part.

BLM is working with other federal and state agencies to assess if any statutory violations occurred and to review Monsanto’s reports and revised designs to ensure similar failures do not recur, Cundick said, adding no waterways or wetlands were adversely impacted.
The company has constructed a temporary berm so the pond is able to function consistent with the approved water management plan.

Marv Hoyt, Idaho director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said he toured the pond failure site with Monsanto managers. He said there was not a lot of sediment that flowed into and covered some of the wetlands downstream.

“On the other hand, it is somewhat troubling that one of the simplest and least complex pieces of a highly complex mine failed,” Hoyt said. “It certainly gives us reason to scrutinize future mine proposals in the region.”
Fifteen phosphate mine sites in Southeast Idaho are listed as Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund sites, encompassing 15,000 acres, mostly in Caribou County.

The power of organization

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Contrary to many expectations, Idaho has a good many Democrats, more than a lot of people suspect. More than 200,000 Idahoans voted for Barack Obama for president last year, and more than 200,000 votes in the two U.S. House races in the state went for the Democratic candidates.

Of course – and no minor point – there were about twice as many votes cast for the Republicans in those races, so in Idaho the Democrats lost. Still, the D numbers are something to conjure with.

I bore that in mind last week a report from Lou Jacobson, a writer on politics for Governing magazine who specializes on politics not on the federal level but in the states. His provocative question: Did the Howard Dean 50-state strategy actually do any good for Democrats? Short answer: He says that it did. Idaho relevance: Democrats should pay attention and take heart; and it could matter to Republicans in many places too.

The longer answer, explaining jargon and party history …

During his tenure as national Democratic chair from 2005 to 2009, former Vermont Governor Dean launched an ambitious and, to many professional pols in both parties impractical, effort called the “50-state strategy.” The norm in politics is to tightly target one's efforts in swing areas, and secondarily build up support in the base – and let slide the areas in strong opposition. For national Democrats, that means forgetting about places like Idaho, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Nebraska … you probably know the list. (Republicans have their opposing list, too.)

Dean thought this was all wrong, that the national party could, by carefully planting enough seed money and building organization in all 50 states, change the political atmosphere in even the toughest places – maybe not turning red states blue, but shifting them to less deeply red, building a bench of candidates at local levels who eventually could run for, and maybe win, higher office. (more…)