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Senate Bill 1264 — Land remediation, rescission

Senate Bill 1264 — Land remediation, rescission

by
Parrish Miller
February 7, 2022
Parrish Miller
February 7, 2022

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1264 would vastly expand the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality's Voluntary Cleanup Program to remediate hazardous or contaminated property.

Rating: -3

Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality's Voluntary Cleanup Program has existed since 1996, but its scope has been limited to industrial and commercial properties. Any project selected for this program can receive up to $150,000 from the state general fund — and ultimately from taxpayers — to help fund the remediation of contaminated sites.

Senate Bill 1264 would amend, among others, Section 39-7202, Idaho Code, to expand this government program in three notable ways. 

The existing statute limits the sites eligible for taxpayer subsidized remediation to "commercial and industrial sites." Senate Bill 1264 strikes this language, allowing the program to include residential properties. 

Additionally, the existing statute justifies the program by claiming "that providing financial assistance to eligible property owners who conduct voluntary cleanups will promote the economic revitalization of property, particularly in rural communities, and will reduce or eliminate the need for many adversarial enforcement actions and delays in remediation plan approvals."

Senate Bill 1264 deletes this language and replaces it with the following sentence: "Those who conduct voluntary cleanups will promote the economic revitalization of property for the community benefit."

The goal of avoiding adversarial enforcement actions seems to have been replaced by the nebulous phrase "community benefit," which does not describe which projects should receive taxpayer dollars. 

(-1)

This is not the extent of the program's expansion, unfortunately. The existing language calls for "a voluntary program for the remediation of hazardous substance or petroleum contaminated sites. ..." Senate Bill 1264 expands this concept to include "the investigation or remediation, or both, of hazardous-substance or petroleum-contaminated sites or sites with perceived contamination." 

No longer is the program limited to dealing with obvious contamination. Now it will expand to start hunting for unknown contamination. 

(-1)

Finally, the existing program is available only to "eligible property owners" who, among other requirements, must not have been responsible for the contamination. Senate Bill 1264 would strip away all such requirements — even that the property owner participate — and would now define an "eligible participant" as "any person interested in the assessment or remediation, or both, of a site." 

In addition to this being a significant expansion of a government program, the broad language used seems to indicate that "interested" people could initiate this process for property they don't even own. 

(-1)

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