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Title: Opposing NAS Study: Letter to Rep. George Nethercutt
Author: The Lands Council et al
Date: November 21,2002 | ID#: 021121
Category: Coeur d'Alene Superfund
Keywords: NAS, National Academy of Science, Coeur d'Alene Basin, George Nethercutt, Environmental Protection Agency, Spokane River

visits since August 19, 2003

Congressman George Nethercutt Jr.
223 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tuesday, November 21, 2002
Dear Congressman Nethercutt,

We wish to thank you for your public statements that the proposed NAS study will not delay the Superfund cleanup of mining wastes in the 1,500-square-mile Coeur d'Alene Basin. As you know, Washington State is especially vulnerable to decisions made upstream in Idaho, the source of ongoing contamination of the Spokane River.

Our organizations fear that a rider to HR 5605, House Appropriations for the Veteran's Administration, Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies asking for a National Academy of Science (NAS) review of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies will, indeed, delay cleanup work.

After the NAS language was made public, the Spokesman-Review reported:

Silver Valley leaders immediately called for delays in EPA's $359 million cleanup plan while the National Academy of Sciences reviews the agency's work.

'Hallelujah,' said Sherry Krulitz, a Shoshone County commissioner. 'We're hanging our hat on whatever this study comes back with.'

Krulitz, chairwoman of a new commission overseeing the EPA's work in Idaho, said she would recommend the commission delay portions of the cleanup until the two-year study is completed. [Cleanup study gets OK: Silver Valley officials want Superfund work delayed. October 10, 2002]

The NAS study is redundant in its focus on studies that already clearly show health and environmental effects in the basin, and has the potential to slow down the cleanup process. Because of the number of studies that have already been conducted, we believe the study is scientifically unnecessary and a waste of tax dollars. We urge you to either prevent the NAS study, or include language to the provision stating that cleanup will not be delayed.

In October of 2002, you went on record stating the cleanup will not be delayed. In order to confirm these public statements in public poliby, and to protect the future of the Spokane River and your constituents, we ask that you add language to the rider stating there will be no delay in cleanup work within the 1,500 square mile area.

The Spokane River needs your help. As you know, for more than one hundred years mining companies in North Idaho created 120 million tons of wastes, including 62 million tons dumped directly into the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. Like an Exxon Valdez in slow motion, this mining waste is flowing down the Coeur d'Alene River across Lake Coeur d'Alene and on to the beaches of the Spokane River. Floods aggravated by the severely overcut Coeur d'Alene National Forest carry most of the pollution: in a single day of the 1996 flood, over 1 million pounds of lead flowed into Lake Coeur d'Alene. The lake, an inefficient tailings pond, disgorged the pollution to Washington State.

In September, after years of studies, preparation, and months of delays, the EPA issued a ROD to remediate the mining wastes in the Spokane River watershed in both Idaho and Washington. To remove any suspicions that the NAS study is a device to further delay the cleanup, we ask you to take a leadership role in protecting the interests of the Spokane community and memorialize in the appropriations language for the NAS study that the study will not delay the cleanup.



Mike Petersen
Executive Director, The Lands Council
John Osborn MD, Conservation Chair
Sierra Club's Northern Rockies Chapter (eastern Washington and Idaho)
Ed Hopkins
Director of the Environmental Quality Program, Sierra Club
Robert Pregulman
Executive Director, Washington Public Interest Research Group
Julie Wolk
Environmental Health Advocate, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Lois M. Gibbs
Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Barbara Miller
Director Silver Valley People's Action Coalition