WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) played offense on what was mostly an unfriendly, one-sided conversation with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland during Tuesday's Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.
"I want to focus on one thing today, one thing and one thing only, and that is the Lava Ridge wind turbine project in Idaho," Sen. Risch said. "Have you heard of it?"
Secretary Haaland repeated many times over that the project is in motion with conversations between stakeholders; that answer did not satisfy Sen. Risch who stopped Secretary Haaland from offering a courtesy 'thank you' upon receiving the question.
"Well, I wanted to get a legitimate exchange with her about how she felt about it, what the agency was doing about it. And what you saw was probably always get from the bureaucrats, that is not much," Sen. Risch told KTVB. "You have to pry pretty good to get an idea of where they're going and to deliver the message."
Sen. Risch pointed to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Idaho Resource Advisory Council (RAC) final report. The subcommittee concluded - for reasons impacting cultural preservation, historic preservation, wildlife, outdoor recreation, grazing, and more - the wind project should not be built.
"So, I'm telling them, take advice from you own people. Don't do it," Sen. Risch said. "I think that the message is loud and clear from Idaho. And I want to deliver that message to the administration and to these people that have gone down the wrong path."
The Environmental Impact Study (EIS) has received around 11,000 comments, according to BLM Twin Falls District Public Affairs Specialist Heather Tiel-Nelson.
"And we're actually extremely thankful for all of the feedback that we've received during the public comment period. It's a hefty document," Tiel-Nelson said. "It helps us to take a really hard look. And I think you'll see when you do take a look at them at the EIS."
Comments will be available for the public to view this summer, Tiel-Nelson said. She does not expect the final EIS study - outlining the main proposal and alternative options - to wrap up until the winter.
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