Pin It
Favorite

This is How it Should Work 

Protecting clean water by reducing regulation

click to enlarge CALEB WALSH
  • Caleb Walsh

We must choose, we've been told, between whether we want to increase environmental protections or reduce burdensome regulations. In Idaho, the City of Boise and the Environmental Protection Agency just proved we can do both at the same time.

click to enlarge reuter.jpg

The Boise River has a phosphorus problem; it's got too much of it. Phosphorus is a nutrient and at low levels is key to maintaining the river's ecosystem. But human activities, like Boise's waste treatment facilities, are dumping excessive phosphorus into the river, harming water quality, fish habitat and potentially human health.

To keep our water clean, the EPA told the City of Boise it needed to reduce its share of phosphorus pollution. While key to protecting our local ecosystem, complying with the EPA's regulations would have been incredibly expensive for the citizens of Boise.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, the city council and staff could have ranted and raved about the requirement and the potential cost to ratepayers. In deeply "red" Idaho, it probably would have even been good politics. Instead they recognized the real need to protect our clean water by reducing phosphorus pollution and went to look for a cost-effective solution.

The City of Boise came back to the EPA with a proposal: We'll remove even more phosphorus pollution from the river than you're requiring — just let us do it somewhere else. They shared a plan to reduce pollution a few miles upstream from where the Boise River joins the Snake River, where a high concentration of phosphorus from agricultural uses enters the river.

After four years of negotiating, the EPA waived their regulatory rules and approved the plan earlier this month. The result is cheaper than adding additional filtration at Boise's treatment plant, will lead to a greater reduction in water pollution and actually will emit less carbon pollution too.

This is how things should work. The EPA held firm in requiring that clean water standards were met, but provided flexibility in how they were reached. The City of Boise stepped up to the plate and creatively found a way to save money and exceed the standards. It's the first time the EPA has ever provided flexibility for a program of this kind. The results speak for themselves.

Fortunately, right now every state in our nation has a chance to follow the lead established by the EPA and Boise's partnership. The EPA's new regulations of carbon pollution provide similar flexibility to the states, setting hard standards, but allowing states to determine how they will meet them.

Americans overwhelmingly support reducing carbon pollution; in fact, most people thought regulations were already in place well before the EPA finally acted earlier this year. It's time for politicians to stop debating these standards and start to think about the best way to meet them.

If they follow the example of the City of Boise, they could reduce carbon pollution well beyond the new standards, improving air quality and human health — all without making a dent in consumers' wallets. Let's hope they do. ♦

John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, is the executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho. He has been active in protecting Idaho's environment, expanding LGBT Rights and the Idaho Republican Party.

  • Pin It

Speaking of Environment, commentators

  • A Win for Everyone
  • A Win for Everyone

    The water protectors at Standing Rock achieve an important victory
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Train Tax?
  • Train Tax?

    Spokane voters will consider fines on oil and coal trains on November's ballot
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Cause For Alarm
  • Cause For Alarm

    Residents of a remote part of Stevens County say something is making them sick, but no one is sure exactly what it is
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Comment

  • A Win for Everyone
  • A Win for Everyone

    The water protectors at Standing Rock achieve an important victory
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • My Dinner with Fidel
  • My Dinner with Fidel

    Looking back nearly 20 years, when three Americans sat down with the Western Hemisphere's most notorious communist
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • 'No' to Sessions
  • 'No' to Sessions

    Trail Mix: Murray opposes AG pick Sessions, McMorris Rodgers' future
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Winter Glow Spectacular

Winter Glow Spectacular @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Through Dec. 11, Through Dec. 23 and Through Dec. 30

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by John T. Reuter

  • A Way Forward
  • A Way Forward

    Five things we can (and must) do without Washington, D.C.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Defending North Idaho
  • Defending North Idaho

    Why Heather Scott must go
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Are You Not Entertained?
  • Are You Not Entertained?

    We cry for blood in our political fights. But this isn't reality TV — this is a real fight for the presidency
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Unfinished Business

    Isaiah Wall wants to get his life on track. But first, he's gotta buy drugs for the police
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Fake-News Nightmare

    The social media dream of the 2000s is fading, but we can reset the system by sticking up for the truth
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


TRAIL MIX


Comment


Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • On a Roll
  • On a Roll

    Just-announced reforms do little to safeguard Spokane against the danger of oil trains
    • May 6, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation