Cleanup plans settle on mines

BOISE (AP) -- Five federal and state agencies, an Indian tribe and Monsanto Co. have agreed to develop comprehensive cleanup plans for three defunct southeastern Idaho phosphate mines.

The pact, announced Tuesday, Dec. 1, by the Environmental Protection Agency, requires the St. Louis-based company to investigate pollution at its Ballard, Henry and Enoch Valley mines.

Mines in Idaho's rich phosphate belt have been under scrutiny after livestock were poisoned by selenium starting in the 1990s.

Though no horses, sheep or cattle died at the Monsanto sites, EPA officials say this agreement will provide a clearer picture of health risks posed to people, livestock and wildlife.

Permit issued on plant emissions

BOISE (AP) -- A proposed southeastern Idaho fertilizer plant due to be powered by turning coal to gas will adhere to strict greenhouse gas emission limits, according to a voluntary pact negotiated with the state Department of Environmental Quality and two environmental groups.

An air quality permit issued in February for the planned $1 billion facility in Power County was challenged by the Sierra Club and Idaho Conservation League.

The plant was originally expected to emit 2.3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, twice the emission level from a standard fertilizer plant, those groups said.

The new permit, issued Monday, Nov. 30, by the state, allows the plant to release 756,000 tons per year.

Supporters plan Parma rescue

LEWISTON (AP) -- Parma Mayor Margaret Watson says supporters of the Parma Research and Extension Center in southwest Idaho are confident they have come up with a plan to keep the center open through June 30.

The university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has said extension centers in Tetonia in southeastern Idaho and Sandpoint in Northern Idaho are also at risk because of budget cuts over the past two years.

The Agricultural and Research Extension Service budget has been reduced by nearly 17 percent, or $4.7 million.

The university said in October it was beginning the administrative process of preparing to close extension centers, including those in Parma, Tetonia and Sandpoint.

A coalition that includes fruit growers who use the station to do research on their crops has put together a plan that combines budget reductions and pledges from farmers and other groups, Watson said.

The measures add up to more than the $250,000 the center needs to survive the rest of the fiscal year.

Ban sought on aerial shooting

BOISE (AP) -- A wildlife advocacy group has asked President Barack Obama to end aerial gunning of coyotes and other predators, citing an Idaho incident where a shotgun-wielding parachutist illegally fired on a wolf.

WildEarth Guardians' 39-page petition also urges Obama to banish spring-loaded cyanide devices and other predator poisoning methods from public lands, calling them dangerous and indiscriminate.

In June, an Eastern Idaho sheep rancher fired on a wolf while piloting a powered parachute above a 160-acre sheep pen. It's unclear if the animal was hit. Wolves in Idaho are considered big game, not predators, so shooting them from the sky is illegal even with a state-issued airborne predator control permit that covers animals such as coyotes.

No charges were filed, but WildEarth Guardians said the Idaho case shows federal agencies have lost control of aerial shooting. The group also contends airborne predator control programs run by the USDA's Wildlife Services division cost taxpayers unnecessary millions and lead to accidents that have killed 38 people since 1973.

Ranching interests including the American Sheep Industry Association say using aircraft and poison to kill coyotes are important tools to combat $125 million in annual losses from predators to the sheep, goat and cattle industry.

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