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Idaho's Oil Country 

Idaho is poised to tap its fossil fuels; plus, Inslee signs pot reforms into law

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LET THE FRACKING BEGIN

Idaho is many things. Beautiful, full of lakes, farmable. It's also about to be an OIL AND GAS PRODUCER. While out of state companies like Alta Mesa identified reserves and drilled wells, lawmakers and regulators spent four years pounding away at laws and regulations to govern the new industry. Experienced oil and gas lobbyists were on hand to steer the legislature, the Idaho Statesman reports. They successfully advocated for an exemption from an existing law that allows citizens to contest government decisions, among other things.

Now that the rules have been approved, Idaho is just waiting on a pipeline that should be completed next month to tap those reserves. It is unclear exactly how much oil and gas exist in Idaho. The Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will collect data from industry players six months after production begins. Those records will become available for public inspection six months after that. The Idaho Conservation League is worried that residents' rights are limited under the guidelines, as they'll be a year behind the industry in receiving pertinent information about the burgeoning industry. (LAEL HENTERLY)

STIRRING THE POT

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law legislation that will bring extensive changes to how MARIJUANA is regulated in the state, while vetoing seven sections of the bill.

One of the biggest and most controversial changes included in the new law are provisions that combine the medical and recreational marijuana markets, both of which will now be regulated by the newly dubbed Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (formerly the Washington State Liquor Control Board). Proponents of the bill argued that the medical marijuana market was operating with too little oversight, allowing unscrupulous dispensaries to sell untaxed pot to minors and non-patients, undermining the recreational market.

The bill also creates a voluntary registry for medical marijuana patients, who will be allowed to purchase more marijuana and receive a tax break if they sign up for it.

While Inslee's signature on the bill was hailed by the Washington CannaBusiness Association, pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access called on the governor to veto the entire bill or at least slow the implementation of it out of fears that patients would be ill-served by the recreational market.

Inslee did veto seven other sections of the bill. Among them was one that would prohibit employers of health care providers from limiting medical marijuana recommendations to patients and another creating new felonies for growing and selling medicinal pot outside of the new regulatory framework. (JAKE THOMAS)

Death of a Mall

Fifty years after opening, major demolition is finally underway at Spokane Valley's UNIVERSITY CITY MALL. When University City opened, it showcased 29 stores and a parking lot for 1,500 cars. But times change. The opening of the sleeker Spokane Valley Mall in 1997, which snagged University City's anchor tenant, J.C. Penney, was a death knell, and the aging mall struggled with massive vacancy ever since.

At one time, officials considered the University City location as possible site of Spokane Valley's downtown. But James Magnuson, the mall's owner, eventually became a strident opponent of the zoning that attempted to make that happen.

The zoning plan was ultimately eliminated, and the current council has no interest in creating a downtown. But at least one element of that vision remains: Part of the parking lot at the mall is the future location for the new Spokane Valley City Hall.

"It's a good prime location for the city," Spokane Valley spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch says. "It's already seeing some redevelopment. The Spokane Valley Tech center came in. There's a new brewery there. The Appleway trail should be wrapping up construction this week."

But she doesn't have any information yet on what will go in the demolished mall's place.

"We're looking to the private sector to bring what they believe the community can support," Branch says. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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