GOVERNOR URGES FIELD BURNING TALKS
OTTER CALLS ON GROWERS, ACTIVISTS TO WORK TOGETHER TOWARD SOLUTIONS
Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter today urged growers who normally burn their crop residue and a group that sued to stop field burning in Idaho to join him in negotiations toward a solution with which both sides - and all Idahoans - can live.
In a letter to producer groups and an air quality watchdog organization, Governor Otter also said the state would not seek clarification from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the state may resume issuing permits for crop-residue burning.
The decision came after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified state officials late last Friday that its interpretation of a recent 9th Circuit Court decision did not prohibit the state from issuing field burning permits. Since that interpretation is at odds with the state's earlier understanding of EPA conclusions about the court ruling, the Governor said he was reluctant to reverse the state's position until other options have been explored.
"While I understand EPA's legal position, there is no doubt that this interpretation will lead us back to court and further uncertainty for growers, regulators and the public," Governor Otter wrote. "After decades of litigation we find ourselves no closer to a solution or certainty than when we began. This is unacceptable. In lieu of further litigation, I am offering to broker a solution."
"The ground rules for negotiation are simple. All litigation must be suspended. Any parties with pending motions before the Ninth Circuit must agree to request a stay for the duration of our discussions. Likewise, no burning permits will be requested or issued during negotiations," he wrote.
"If you want a solution and are committed to the ground rules we can move forward. Time is of the essence. Please notify my office as soon as possible, but no later than Friday, May 4, 2007, of your willingness to begin negotiations.
"To those who insist there is no real alternative to a court-imposed remedy, I maintain an investment of time and effort at the negotiating table is a necessary first step and will pay dividends when compared to the costs and uncertainty of continuing litigation," Governor Otter concluded. "I believe we should seize the opportunity to be the architects of our own destiny. I have faith that together we can develop a solution that works for all Idahoans."
The letter was sent to representatives of the Idaho Grain Producers, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Nezperce Prairie Grass Growers Association, North Idaho Farmers Association, Safe Air For Everyone (SAFE) and Panhandle Environmental Resource Corporation (PERC). (EPA Letter)