Yesterday marked the 200th speech given at the Idaho Environmental Forum in Boise. The non-partisan association has been around since 1989, when its first speaker was Governor Cecil Andrus. To celebrate this anniversary, the association invited their inaugural speaker back for an encore.
Speaking in front of a rapt audience in downtown Boise, Andrus started by giving a bit of a history lesson on environmental policy. He went back and forth between being passionate and light-hearted in his remarks.
The four-term Democratic governor says that unlike during his early political years, politicians are unwilling to compromise these days. Andrus says that in order to get anything done, everyone needs to come to the negotiating table.
Andrus also criticized Republican Senator Jim Risch. He says the senator’s withdrawal of support in creating a wilderness area in central Idaho is an example of his unwillingness to compromise.
“Senator Risch is an absolute obstructionist when it comes to the Boulder White Clouds," says Andrus. "It’s not a new stance for him, but he put a hold on that. And that legislation should have passed, could have passed, if he hadn’t gone south.”
The 81-year-old Andrus says one of the most pressing environmental issues today in Idaho is protecting water quality. He says the Department of Energy needs to be held accountable for dealing with 900 thousand gallons of liquid sodium nuclear waste. He says the waste lies on top of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, and was supposed to be shipped out of the state by 2012.
“We have to continue to protect the water quality not only of the aquifer but of the main tributaries of the Snake and the Salmon River,” Andrus says.
Andrus also criticized the resolutions passed in this year’s legislature seeking to transfer public lands from the federal government to the state. When he asked audience members if they trust the Idaho lawmakers to manage public lands, the audience replied with a resounding “no.”
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