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HB 239: Phosphate mining bill – 2021

Summary: House Bill 239 would eliminate groundwater monitoring associated with toxic phosphogypsum piles from phosphorous plants in southeast Idaho and prescribes rules for facility construction.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Law

Issue Areas: Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Mining, Phosphate Mining

Official Legislative Site

House Bill 239 was introduced by Rep. Marc Gibbs (R-Grace) and Sen. Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs) on behalf of the phosphate mining industry. The bill prescribes technical specifications regarding the design and construction of phosphogypsum stacks, the toxic residue left over after processing phosphorous for various industrial uses, including Roundup, fertilizer, and other products. Domestic phosphate mining occurs primarily in two locations, Florida and southeast Idaho.

The waste piles outside the Simplot phosphate plant in Pocatello are a good example of the scale of these toxic sites, and similar sites have left a legacy of pollution across southeast Idaho.

Last year, a bill directed the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop rules that relate to these phosphogypsum stacks. ICL engaged in DEQ rulemaking and pointed out the need to ensure environmental protection. DEQ specialists appeared to share similar concerns with ICL that industry representatives were advocating that certain environmental safeguards were outside the scope of the rule.

Not exactly what the phosphate mining industry was hoping for. So instead of continuing the negotiated rulemaking process, the industry is putting its position directly into the statute and eliminating the need for groundwater monitoring in the process.