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Press Release: Sali in D.C. says Congress Needs to Get Back to Work Immediately

August 11th, 2008 by Halli

From the office of Rep. Bill Sali

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Congressman Bill Sali today again insisted that Congress return to work right away and vote to open up American energy exploration and production in order to get gas prices down. Sali spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives, even though the House is not in session today. The Democrat-controlled Congress voted to adjourn for a 5-week recess, even though Americans want Congress to work on a solution to high energy prices. Sali voted against adjournment. He is a co-sponsor of several bills that contain more oil production, as well as conservation and emphasis on new alternative energy technology. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to consider that legislation, objecting to more drilling on American soil and offshore.

“It’s extraordinary that Speaker Pelosi is on a tour promoting her new book, while Idahoans and other hardworking Americans are struggling to pay for gas. This Congress has an approval rating of 9 percent. And it’s very obvious why. Congress should be working right now to pass legislation that boosts supply of American crude oil, so that gas prices will actually go down,” said Sali. “Doing nothing is not an answer to high gas prices. Congress created the policies that are responsible for high gas prices. Congress needs to lift the ban on American oil production and exploration in order to get those prices down.”

Last week, Sali was one of several Republican Members of Congress who spoke on the need for energy independence after Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat leadership of House turned off the lights, the cameras and the microphones. Sali and the others stayed behind to give their speeches in front of a gallery of Americans concerned about high gas prices.

Sali has also introduced legislation to provide a tax credit to Americans to help offset the impact of high gas prices. Sali and other Republicans have asked President Bush to call Congress into session in order to take up legislation that would increase America’s energy independence.

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Posted in Congressman Bill Sali, Family Matters, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

Guest Post: Idaho Man Goes to Federal Prison Today at 2pm

August 6th, 2008 by Halli

From Bryan Fischer, Idaho Values Alliance

Lynn Moses, a Driggs, Idaho man, will enter the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon today at 2 p.m. in an unfolding story of government tyranny.

Mr. Moses lost his wife to an unexpected heart attack 1 ½ years ago, and suspects that the stress created by this abuse of federal power is responsible. And yesterday he was forced to leave his 17-year-old daughter Whitney at home in tears, who will now have to experience her senior in high school without the companionship of either of her parents, both of them taken from her by the repressive power of the central government.

No mom or dad to host her and her friends on her 18th birthday, no mom or dad to take pictures of her and her date on the night of her senior prom, and no mom or dad to proudly watch her graduate from high school.

As I wrote last Friday, in a story also featured yesterday on WorldNetDaily, Moses is being locked up for maintaining an intermittent stream bed as a flood control channel, as he has been required to do by Teton County officials since 1980.

(Since the EPA stepped in, no maintenance has been done on the channel for the last three years. A 35-foot section of the bank recently washed away, threatening another subdivision in the area, erosion that Moses tells me could have been prevented if he’d been allowed to continue his work. The mitigating work that the developer did to stop that erosion is now causing erosion on the opposite bank.)

The EPA prosecuted him for violating the Clean Water Act, even though the EPA has no jurisdiction over intermittent streams and Teton Creek only has water in it for less than two months out of every year.

And the more you know, the worse things get. On the day Moses was sentenced to federal prison, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Rapanos decision, in which the plurality opinion written by Antonin Scalia clearly prohibits the federal government’s jurisdiction over intermittent streams under the Clean Water Act.

In fact, eight months after the Rapanos decision came out, the Corps of Engineers revised its written regulations regarding application of the Clean Water Act. The revised regulations authorize federal jurisdiction only over streams which have continuous flows for at least three months a year.

Teton Creek has never, even a single time since the diversion of irrigation water over 100 years ago, had flowing water for that long, and rarely has flowing water for as long as two months in any given year. This year, for example, despite significant snowpack and strong flows, the Creek had water in it for considerably less than two months.

If either the Corps or the EPA wants to exercise jurisdiction over an intermittent stream which has flowing water for less than three months a year, they must issue a “Jurisdictional Determination” produced by the Corp’s District Engineer, who has to show that the stream bed, despite its intermittent flows, has some significant connection to the waters of the United States. No “Jurisdictional Determination” has ever been issued with regard to Teton Creek.

Bottom line: if these written regulations, done to conform to the reigning Supreme Court ruling, had been in place when this sorry saga began, it would have been abundantly clear that Mr. Moses was right every single time he refused to accept federal jurisdiction over the stream bed, and that the federal government had no legal right to prosecute him.

Moses has filed what is called a “2255″ habeas corpus request with Federal Judge Lynn Winmill. A “2255″ is authorized by a provision in federal law which enables a defendant to ask for reconsideration on the basis of new evidence, evidence which has emerged since his trial. These written regulations, produced eight months after the trial by the Corps’ field technicians rather than the cubically-challenged bureaucrats at the EPA, make it evident that no charges should ever have been brought against Moses in the first place.

In Moses’ appeal before a three judge panel of the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, the EPA’s attorney admitted to the Court that she had never seen a “Jurisdictional Determination” from the Corps with regard to Teton Creek.

The 9th Circuit had Scalia’s plurality opinion (he wrote for four of the five justices in the majority) in hand when they denied Moses’ appeal, but rejected it in favor of citing Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion because it – despite representing the view of just one of the nine Supreme Court justices – gave them the fodder they needed to make sure Moses went to prison.

One of the three judges was incensed that permission had even been granted in the first place to divert water for irrigation, and wanted to know who was responsible for that outrage so the court could hold the miscreants responsible. She was so unfamiliar with the facts of the case that she didn’t even know that the irrigation diversion had been done over 100 years ago. (She apparently was sorely disappointed that she couldn’t find anybody to punish for that.)

Moses occasionally hired others to help him with stream bed maintenance. The 9th Circuit’s opinion is so disgraceful that the judges refer to Moses and his “minions,” as if they were writing an Op-Ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle.

So Moses will be deprived of one of the “unalienable rights” granted to him by his Creator – the right to liberty – at 2 p.m. this afternoon. We went to war with the Crown of England over abuses less egregious than this.

When I asked Lynn this morning, during his last few hours of freedom, what people could do to help, he said the most critical thing is to get the information about his case – especially the IVA’s Friday Update (link below) into the hands of as many people as possible, including Congressmen, Senators and Governors. His point: if the guys who need votes to retain office begin hearing from enough of their own constituents, they might start to say, “What’s going on here?”

And I can guarantee that if they start asking that question, they are not going to like the answer.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Property Rights | No Comments »

Guest Post: “Party of the People” not Serving Our Energy Needs

August 5th, 2008 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The political party in control of congress touts itself as the “party of the people,” as represented by their party name. Their legislative priorities then are subject to scrutiny to ascertain their commitment to pursuing the interests of the people they claim to be the voice for.

It seems obvious that one of the primary concerns of “the people” is the high price of gas. Having gone from $2.19 per gallon in November of 2006 when they took over, to $4.00, the price of gas is dramatically affecting the prices of everything, because of the high cost of transportation.

Since high fuel prices are such a concern we would assume that the leadership of the “party of the people” would want to do something about it, right? Well, obviously that’s assuming too much. Rather than dealing with the crucial energy issue at all, Congress strikes out on its 5 week August recess. But they did take the time to deal with one really critical issue: apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow laws of the 19th Century. Wow, that makes it so much easier to pay $4.00 for gas! So much for legitimate legislative priorities.

Without so much as allowing a discussion on their own proposals to reduce high gas prices Congress is now officially on recess. There is no indication whatsoever that Congress will follow the President’s lead and rescind the Congressional ban on offshore drilling in the outer continental shelf. In other words, what matters most to “the people” is not a concern of the Congressional leadership. They wouldn’t even allow their own plan to be voted on, which was conspicuously absent any substantive recommendations to increase our supply.

Congress has no viable solutions to alleviate the pricing pressure of oil. Their “solutions” have been anything but that. Speaker Pelosi recommends releasing 10% of the Strategic Petroleum Reserves to alleviate pricing pressure. That amounts to about 2.5 days of U.S. consumption. I’m sure that’ll make a big difference. Harry Reid (true to form) wants to sue OPEC. I’m sure that will drop the price. Senator Obama wants to give us another stimulus check, which again, does nothing to solve the pricing problem. And his most recent recommendation this week was to put more air in our tires. And they all want to tax oil companies more. That sure creates incentive to produce more! Can these people really be so devoid of logic and detached from economic reality? If this is the best leadership the “party of the people” can muster, they should be disbanded and start a new party that has at least a modicum of common sense and economic consciousness.

All they had to do before their recess (I think we could actually argue that they’ve been on recess since they took control two years ago!) was agree to rescind the Congressional ban on offshore drilling. Witness what happened two weeks ago after the President announced he would rescind the Executive Order banning outer continental shelf drilling. The price per barrel dropped from $147 on July 11 to $122. That’s a 17% drop in the price of crude based on the market’s perception that supply might be increasing. That’s even with the threat of a tropical storm disrupting operations in the Gulf. The weekly report from the EIA (Energy Information Administration) indicated a drop of 2.1% in gasoline consumption from a year ago, and inventories increased by 3mm barrels the prior week. That type of news typically causes crude prices to drop about 1-1.5%. The only other factor then is the President’s announcement. If Congress was to follow the President’s lead we would probably see crude oil drop to $100 per barrel, and drift slowly toward the $80-85 level that is fundamentally justifiable.

Many contend that it would take years to start seeing any production from offshore. However, a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst said recently that there is a lot of offshore crude that can be produced relatively quickly. The Minerals Management Service said that of the estimated 18 billion barrels of oil in off-limits coastal areas, almost 10 billion are off the coast of California. California could actually start producing new oil within a year if the moratorium were lifted, because the oil is under shallow water, has been explored and drilling platforms have been there since before the moratoria.

There are some who think that the President has been asleep at the wheel on the energy issue, and have choked at a gnat over the Vice President’s “secret” meetings with energy officials early in the first term. From that series of meetings, the President’s energy plan was spelled out in detail, calling for more expanded drilling domestically, more funding for alternative energy sources, and expanded implementation of nuclear energy into the mix. A drastically watered down version was finally enacted in 2005.

But here we sit with $4.00 gasoline, with a lame-duck President no one listens to, and a congress that is perpetually on a mental recess. “The people” deserve better.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Press Release: Sali asks Bush to Veto Public Lands Lock-up

August 4th, 2008 by Halli

From the office of Rep. Bill Sali

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Bill Sali has spearheaded a letter to President Bush, asking him to veto a bill that would lock up 26 million acres of public land across the nation, including Idaho.

More than two dozen other lawmakers signed Sali’s letter, expressing serious concerns with H.R. 2016, the National Landscape Conservation System Act.

The measure would lock up 26 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, including land in Idaho, and would prevent many popular family recreational opportunities and almost all economic activities from taking place on the land. Sali said he’s also concerned the bill would block options for American energy exploration and production.

“This bill could have huge energy implications, as all land permanently locked up under this bill would also mean these lands are permanently off limits to energy development,” Sali said.

“Right now the best plan Congress can come up with to solve our energy woes is to take a five week vacation. To make matters worse, if this bill were signed it would be just another step backwards in the goal to increase American energy production.

“America needs action from Congress to ensure that our local and national economies grow stronger and more resilient. To do that, they will need the vital resources available from secure American sources. In addition, locking up land would prevent many recreational activities and would be devastating for the people who hunt, fish, camp, raise their kids and try to earn a living on and around these lands. It is in the best interest of our constituents that the President veto this bill should it come before him,” concluded Sali.

H.R. 2016 passed the House on April 9, 2008 and awaits action in the Senate.

Twenty six other Members of Congress signed Sali’s letter, including Minority Leader Boehner, Ranking Member Young, Duncan Hunter, Rob Bishop, Paul Broun, Walley Herger, John Doolittle, Tom Price, Jack Kingston, Steve Pearce, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Lynn Westmoreland, Henry Brown, Doug Lamborn, Louie Gohmert, John Duncan, Mary Fallin, George Radanovich, Robert Latta, Tim Walberg, Bill Shuster, Tom Tancredo, Virginia Foxx, Jeff Flake, and John Shimkus.

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Posted in Congressman Bill Sali, Constitutional Issues, National Sovereignty, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Guest Post: Outrage in Idaho – Feds Send Man to Prison for Protecting Homes from Flooding

August 1st, 2008 by Halli

From Bryan Fischer, Idaho Values Alliance

Lynn Moses will be locked up in federal prison next Wednesday. His crime? Protecting the city of Driggs from flooding.

When Mr. Moses began to develop a subdivision along Teton Creek in 1980, Teton County required him to implement an engineer’s plan to modify the Teton Creek stream bed to prevent the flooding of subdivision property, caused by the buildup of gravel bars and downed trees, during high water flows in the spring.

In fact, the county would not allow him even to record the plat for the subdivision until the modification work had been done, and only allowed the development after requiring the homeowner’s association to maintain the flood control channel year after year.

Teton Creek used to be a flowing stream, but irrigation diversion over 100 years ago dewatered the Creek and left the stream bed dry for all but two months a year at the most. Water only fills the stream bed when irrigators have more water than they can use. (Note: this means there is no “aquatic environment” here, nor any “wetland.”)

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were invited to a planning meeting with the county and Mr. Moses in 1980, but they soon left the meeting after informing county officials that they had “classified the stream as intermittent and therefore outside their jurisdiction.”

So working on plans developed by an engineer and approved – in fact, required – by the county, Mr. Moses got to work and cleared the channel of gravel bars and downed cottonwood trees to ensure that the channel would serve as a flood control structure.

For years he has walked the entire length of the creek to evaluate conditions and then remove gravel bars, sand, logs and debris as necessary to keep the channel clear and satisfy the subdivision’s obligation to the county.

When Driggs flooded in the spring of 1981 – due to a clogged culvert under a county road – the county approached the Corps a second time, asking for funding and help to replace the culvert with a bridge to prevent future flooding. Once again, the Corps said, Nope, not our problem, not our fault, not our responsibility to fix, we don’t have jurisdiction.

Why? Because, they repeated again, Teton Creek is an intermittent stream and we have no jurisdiction unless there is water in the stream bed at least three months out of the year. Thus twice the federal government pointedly and definitively washed its hands of the whole thing.

Since 1982, all Mr. Moses has done is to provide the necessary maintenance to ensure that the stream bed does not get clogged with gravel, sediment, fallen trees, and other debris so that the stream bed can continue to siphon flood water away from homes and the city of Driggs.

He did his work when the stream bed was dry, of course, and never put anything into the stream bed, only took “pollutants” (sedimentation, sand, gravel, etc.) out.

Tellingly, in 1984, when the Forest Service needed to build a road, they came to this same stretch of Teton Creek and – without any kind of permit – contracted with Mr. Moses to excavate between 5,000 and 6,000 cubic yards of gravel from the bed, all of which was inspected by government officials.

Every four or five years, when new staff would replace the old, and a generation would arise “who knew not Joseph,” Mr. Moses would receive a letter from the Corps of Engineers, insisting that he needed to get a permit from them for his maintenance work. He’d write them back, informing him that, according to the Corps itself, they had no jurisdiction over intermittent streams. That would be that.

He’d hear nothing for another four to five years, after which another staff rotation led to another letter from the Corps and to a similar reply from Mr. Moses. And so it went for over 20 years.

An aggressive Corps staffer tried to convinced the U.S. Attorney to prosecute Mr. Moses in 1995, and the U.S. Attorney told him to take a hike since the Corps had no jurisdictional authority to initiate legal action.

According to former state legislator Lee Gagner, the Corps “discussed his process many times with him, but could not show where they had jurisdiction on the seasonal, intermittent stream.” Gagner adds, “[T]o this day they do not have written rules indicating this to be true.”

As far as Gagner knows, the Corps never completed what is called a “Jurisdictional Determination” that their own rules even gave them any authority over this particular intermittent stream. (Jurisdiction is determined on a case-by-case basis with intermittent streams.)

At this point, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emboldened by newly granted bureaucratic authority, jumped in and went right after Mr. Moses, indicting and prosecuting him for violating the Clean Water Act in the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 for doing nothing more than the routine maintenance on the channel he had been doing for 20 years, under requirements imposed by local government.

Presiding federal judge Lynn Winmill, who has a well-deserved reputation for judicial activism, refused to allow Teton County commissioners to testify to the original agreement, nor would he allow the aggressive Corps staffer to testify about the refusal of the U.S. Attorney to prosecute in the mid-90s.

Before the jury was dismissed to enter into deliberations at the conclusion of his trial, Judge Lynn Winmill instructed the jury, believe it or not, to disregard every bit of information from 1980 to 2002, including the Corps’ denial of jurisdiction and the mandate from local government for Mr. Moses to maintain the flood channel.

Instructed by this notoriously activist judge to ignore facts, reason and legal history, the jury returned with a guilty verdict, finding Mr. Moses guilty of “discharging” “pollutants” into one of the “waters of the United States.”

His conviction ignores the fact that no evidence was ever presented in court that Mr. Moses “discharged” anything into the stream bed at all. He only removed sand and gravel bars that were already there and which he was contractually obligated to remove. He was extracting material from the channel, not discharging material into it.

No evidence was presented in court by the EPA that there was any water at all in the stream bed during those years for Mr. Moses to “discharge” anything into. The EPA claims that “fallback” – material from the bank falling back into the stream bed – represents a “discharge,” but it offers no objective criteria for deciding how much “fallback” it takes to cross the magic threshold, meaning the EPA used sheer speculation to assert a violation.

Worse, Mr. Moses has been convicted of “pollut(ing) a spawning area for Yellowstone cutthroat trout,” despite the fact that there have been no fish in this stream bed for more than 150 years. Mr. Gagner, who has lived near the flood channel for 18 years, says he has never seen fish in this stream bed. And it’s not even possible for the stream bed to serve as a spawning ground since it only has water two months out of every year in the first place.

Although the director of the EPA in Idaho, Jim Wernitz, asserts that Mr. Moses had damaged “wetlands” associated with the stream, there are no wetlands there! The very word requires that land be, well, wet, but the stream bed is bone dry for at least 10 months out of every year. Wernitz is apparently ignorant of the fact that the Government had previously stipulated that there are no wetlands surrounding the storm channel, nor any “aquatic environment” that could be damaged..

In the plurality opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2006 Rapanos case, Justice Scalia wrote that the Clean Water Act in fact gives the federal government jurisdiction only over “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water,” and explicitly added, “[T]he ‘waters of the United States’ does not include channels through which water flows intermittently or ephemerally, or channels that periodically provide drainage for rainfall.”

Embarrassingly for Judge Winmill, this ruling was handed down on the very day Mr. Moses was originally sentenced to prison. Eight months later, the Corps of Engineers revised its own rules in a way that makes it abundantly clear that the federal government has no jurisdiction over an intermittent stream like Teton Creek.

No matter. With other notoriously activist federal judges in the 9th Circuit, animated by environmental sympathies and a sympathy for the repressive power of big government, refusing to overturn lower court convictions on appeal, Mr. Moses has been forced to spend almost $400,000 of his own money in a losing effort to defend himself for protecting the city of Driggs from catastrophic flooding.

Mr. Moses’ wife died unexpectedly of a heart attack 1 ½ years ago. Friends tell me the stress of their 25-year battle with the federal government and the stress of the guilty verdict contributed to her early death. Mr. Moses, when I spoke with him this morning, agrees that this is a likely possibility.

The death of his wife has left Mr. Moses to raise his 17-year-old daughter by himself, a daughter who will now have to fend for herself now that her sole surviving parent will be tossed behind bars – in another state no less – for the next 18 months.

His daughter, just now entering her senior year in high school, will be deprived of his comfort and counsel right when she needs it the most. Mr. Moses will miss his daughter’s companionship, and miss the joy of her 18th birthday party, her senior prom and her graduation ceremony.

Virtually everything is wrong with this story. It’s an egregious violation of the constitutional limitations on federal power, as federal bureaucrats simply dismissed the fact that Mr. Moses was required by local authorities to do exactly what he was doing.

Bureaucratic government agencies, aided and abetted by activist judges, acted as petty tyrants and incarcerated a man not for doing evil but for doing good. A fine man has been chewed up by the grinding maw of a mindless and inhumane federal government, and will spend the next year and a half of his life behind bars, not for endangering the families in his community, but for protecting them.

His attorney calls the whole thing “a travesty,” which is just about the mildest thing that can be said about this unconscionable miscarriage of justice.

As Elaine Jones said in a letter published by the Idaho Press-Tribune, “A good, honorable widower is leaving his daughter to others to raise, and is going to prison for following the rules, obeying the law and helping his friends stay safe from flooding.”

As George Washington said, “Government is like fire, a handy servant but a dangerous master.” Lynn Moses will tell you that the government’s fire can not just singe you but burn you to a crisp.

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