by Paul Koberstein
and Loathing in the Panhandle
newspaper chain's threats and smears divide a community
as it weighs a toxic cleanup
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho
It's a fact of history that Congress once voted
to sever Northern Idaho from the rest of the state
and attach it to Washington, but President Grover
Cleveland thought it was a bad idea and pocket-vetoed
the law in 1887. The northern part of the state
became the Idaho Panhandle, though it looks more
like a thumb.
Make that a sore thumb. Before Cleveland took office
in 1885, the waters of the Coeur d'Alene-Spokane
River basin were already being poisoned by hard
rock mining in the upper reaches of the basin, an
area known as the Silver Valley. Though mining companies
quit dumping toxic tailings into the river in 1968,
their waste continues to poison the river to this
The mines' legacy has also poisoned children and
adults, contaminated residential properties and
open spaces, killed wildlife and defiled waters
all the way to the Columbia River. In the 1970s,
a smelter fire in Kellogg caused the highest measured
levels of blood lead poisoning in U.S. history.
Some of the highest toxic concentrations have been
found along a former Union Pacific rail line now
being converted into a controversial hiking and
Hundreds of millions of tons of mining waste have
been moved by flooding in the basin. Enormous quantities
have landed at the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene
or continued their journey through the lake and
into the Spokane River at the lake's other end.
The Spokane River enters the Columbia above Grand
Coulee Dam. In 1999, the Spokane discharged 400
tons of lead, cadmium and zinc into the Columbia,
plus additional, unmeasured amounts of arsenic,
according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Wherever they come to rest, these metals poison
sediments, fish and wildlife, and people.
To stop the pollution and correct the damage, last
fall the Environmental Protection Agency proposed
an interim $359 million Superfund cleanup plan (that
could eventually grow to $1.5 billion), one of the
largest environmental restoration projects ever,
building on limited cleanup efforts that began in
1989. A final decision on a cleanup plan is due
in late June.
Hijackers, terrorists and jack-booted feds
One might think the people of the Silver Valley
would be celebrating the sizable benefits of a cleanup
to public health and the environment. With the economy
battered with poverty and high unemployment, people
here would gain from many new jobs. A clean environment
would make the basin a much healthier place to live
Yet widespread public support the cleanup is not
only hard to find in northern Idaho, it is drowned
out by shrill voices in opposition, especially those
of two daily newspapers owned by one of Idaho's
most famous industrialists, Duane Hagadone: the
Shoshone News-Press in Kellogg, and the Coeur d'Alene
Press in Coeur d'Alene.
People who dare speak out in favor of the cleanup
are excoriated almost continually in the Shoshone
News-Press. In news articles, editorials and letters
to the editor, that newspaper has repeatedly published
personal attacks and smears against environmentalists,
often targeting Barbara Miller, executive director
of the Silver Valley People's Action Coalition (SV
PAC), as well as members of other media organizations
and employees of the EPA. The Kellogg newspaper
has even published "tongue in cheek" death
threats against EPA employees and this reporter.
While complaints of improper EPA actions may well
be valid, and are the focus of an Ombudsman investigation,
the Kellogg newspaper has compared EPA workers and
their methods to hijackers, terrorists and jack-booted
federal agents. Articles in the Coeur d'Alene Press
are less antagonistic, yet often are written with
an anti-EPA or anti-cleanup slant.
"Every ethical line has been crossed, said
Bob Bostwick, a spokesman for the Coeur d'Alene
Tribe and a former reporter for a Spokane television
station, in reference particularly to articles in
the Shoshone News-Press. "Some of these things
are just absolutely shameful, stunningly shameful."
Over the last year the angry tone seems to have
escalated while people in the community were trying
to weigh various plans for cleaning up mining wastes
under their feet. Charles Moss, director of the
state of Idaho's cleanup team, said the "industrial
strength" rhetoric has polarized decision-making.
Others say the newspapers have gone to such lengths
to discredit health risks that they may have discouraged
people from seeking medical care needed for themselves
or their children. People have almost come to blows
after public meetings. Environmentalists have been
yelled at on public streets and at school functions.
"It's insane what these people are getting
away with," says Tina Paddock, a former Silver
Valley resident who continues to advocate cleanup
from her home in McMinnville, Ore. "Mothers
are afraid to speak out on behalf of their kids.
They are afraid to receive the treatment like Barbara
Miller has endured. Their families still work or
wish to work for the mines and they can not risk
it. I had one lady tell me she was afraid her husband
would become violent. I hold the newspaper, in part,
responsible for the licensing of this attitude."
Paddock charges that Hagadone's newspapers seem
to be on a mission to "destroy the People's
Action Coalition because of its assertion that the
region is not cleaned up, and people's health is
at risk. They want Miller shut down."
For Miller, the personal attacks are nothing new-she
claims they have been going on since 1986. "These
people lie about me personally and tell people to
not support our work," Miller says. "It
is a little difficult to go out and talk intelligently
to people today about the pressing issues facing
the need for further cleanup and health intervention.
This community needs to heal. It doesn't need more
opportunity to prolong violence and hatred and anger."
Miller, meanwhile, is not holding her breath for
the appreciation she believes her organization deserves.
"The work we've begun has improved the quality
of life here to the point that people have never
seen before," she says.
I'll bring the tar if you bring the feathers
On Jan. 30, 2001, Miller woke up to read these
chilling words in a letter to the editor published
in the Shoshone News-Press: "Neighbors and
friends, I'll bring the tar paper if you will bring
the feathers and we will have a wonderful time on
these people (the Silver Valley People's Action
Coalition), doing something that will be of some
benefit to this valley in a positive way."
Duane Hagadone owns almost
all the daily and weekly newspapers in northern
Idaho, plus several radio and television stations,
and the Coeur d'Alene Resort, left.
The news media in the Silver Valley is the one
institution with a responsibility to protect and
foster a free and open debate on just this kind
of public issue. Instead, they have fostered a nasty
tone that suppresses candor.
Hagadone, who also owns almost all the other daily
and weekly newspapers in northern Idaho, plus several
radio and television stations, has a financial stake
in silencing cleanup advocates. Hagadone owns the
Coeur d'Alene Resort, the county's biggest employer,
and his other agendas include promoting expanded
casino gambling on nearby tribal lands. His newspapers
have expressed concern that too much attention on
pollution and Superfund cleanup may drive tourists
Hagadone also has had a stake in the area's mining
industry, and may still. Until 1998, he was a director
of the Coeur d'Alene Mining Corp., which owns properties
in the Silver Valley and is on the hook for millions
of dollars in Superfund cleanup costs. (Other companies
on the hook include ASARCO and Hecla.) Back in the
1980s, Hagadone was a member of a partnership that
purchased portions of the mining properties within
the Bunker Hill Superfund site in Kellogg. The partnership,
Bunker Limited Partnership, spent much of the late
1980s fighting efforts by the EPA to hold it responsible
for cleanup costs, according to an Inspector General's
report in 1990.
Cascadia Times attempted to reach Hagadone and
editors of the two newspapers by telephone but was
In 1996 High Country News reported that Hagadone
had used his newspapers to downplay the dangers
about heavy-metals pollution in the area. Hagadone's
newspapers have continued to dismiss those dangers,
claiming in recent editorials that "no one
in the past 20 years has been provably sickened
by heavy metals in the Silver Valley." A search
of Coeur d'Alene Press online archives over the
last two years shows the paper's news columns have
heavily reported information that backs up the editorial
page viewpoint while all but ignoring other views.
For example, a 1,600-word article in the April
19, 2002, Coeur d'Alene Press dwelled on a California
pediatrician's opinion that there's no validity
to the EPA's claim that lead poisoning threatens
Silver Valley children. The article quoted Edgar
J. Schoen as saying, "A pediatrician who has
been trained within the past 20 years has never
seen a symptomatic case of lead poisoning."
The article, written by David Bond, quoted at length
the pediatrician's criticism of a 1979 study linking
lead poisoning to brain damage in children.
Schoen also charged that the government squanders
billions of dollars pursuing "a nonexistent
problem" under the spell of a "lead mafia
running on government grants." Schoen also
claimed that the EPA bases its assumptions about
childhood lead poisoning on "controversial
studies" that have "long since been discredited
by the scientific community."
Bond did not cite any studies that contradict Schoen,
though there are many. In 1995, the American Academy
of Pediatrics reviewed 18 scientific studies on
the correlation between children's mental abilities
and lead in their blood. "The relationship
between lead levels and IQ deficits was found to
be remarkably consistent," the Academy said.
Nor did Bond quote any experts who disagree with
the California doctor. Bond claimed that he tried
and failed to reach one who does - Dr. John Rosen,
a New York pediatrician and internationally recognized
childhood lead expert whom Schoen dismissed in the
article as "a complete fanatic."
"This is one-sided and bad reporting,"
said Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a physician at Children's
Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. "You
can cite the Institute of Medicine, World Health
Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and
numerous other respected organizations that contradict
all of the overly simplistic comments made in the
Bond denies that his reporting is biased.
another instance of apparently lopsided reporting,
an extensive front-page article, "Priorities
of Poison," published Nov. 11, 2001 in the
Shoshone News-Press presented views from several
local people who think lead-related health issues
are of no concern in the area. No medical experts
who disagree with this point of view - and again,
there are many - were quoted in the story.
Similarly, a May 17, 2001 article in the Coeur
d'Alene Press presented the views of three critics
of the EPA's lead cleanup standards without finding
a single expert to defend their validity. The end
of the article did present a tame defense offered
by a state of Idaho official.
The newspapers can also be misleading when they
report on cleanup issues. For example, in a Feb.
14, 2002, article on a lawsuit filed by the Bunker
Hill Mining Co. against the EPA, the Coeur d'Alene
Press stated that the "EPA caused to be built
next to the South Fork (of the Coeur d'Alene River)
a hazardous waste landfill not in compliance with
... regulations of the EPA to protect the public
health and the environment."
While there is, in fact, a landfill next to the
South Fork, that landfill was built in the 1920s
by the mining industry, a full five decades before
the EPA was created.
A mobilizing force
Hagadone's Kellogg newspaper tends to dismiss people
who claim that lead poisoning is a problem in the
basin as "barbarians," "Millistines"
and "Millstones" - clear references to
the leader of Kellogg's environmental group. Last
year, Bond described Barbara Miller in this way:
"This woman flies around the country like a
A few years ago she found she
could make a buck blathering lies about the mental
and physical health of the Silver Valley. She makes
stuff up. She has other people who make stuff up
Miller says that so far she hasn't been physically
harmed. But, she quickly adds, "I do not feel
safe alone." And while ostracized in her own
community, outsiders admire her work, which has
created even more tension, again fostered by the
Hagadone-owned news media.
Last August, when the Ford Foundation nominated
Miller as a finalist for a prestigious award, the
Shoshone News-Press launched a campaign against
her. If Miller won, a $130,000 prize would have
gone to the Silver Valley People's Action Coalition
for its work in the community. This prompted the
Shoshone News Press to ask members of the public
to join an effort to block it.
Daniel C. Drewry, the paper's publisher and editor,
urged readers to write letters to an affiliate of
the Ford Foundation "to help choke off the
stream of lies, half-truths, and distortions that
emanate from the organization. The potential damage
to the community, should the grant be awarded, is
In the same editorial, he wrote, "We as a
community know that Barbara Miller and her claque
represent a tiny, disaffected minority. The group
has no credibility and no respect. They bring in
one or two outside 'experts' who spew insults at
all of us from Rose Lake to Mullan. The spew is
picked up by outside media, and the valley gets
another black eye from the People's Action Coalition."
The Ford Foundation reported that among the finalists,
it received letters of protest only regarding Miller's
nomination. A typical letter apparently came from
Jan Petersen, a resident of the Kellogg area who
wrote in a letter published in the Idaho News Observer
in Wallace (one of only two dailies or weeklies
in northern Idaho not owned by Hagadone), "I
do truly add my opinion to Barbara receiving this
grant. The money will not be used to benefit the
community, nor will it be used to educate the general
public or anyone on lead or any other contaminants.
It might be used to pay some back water bills, pay
Dr. (John) Rosen (a medical consultant to the People's
Action Committee) and buy her child much needed
clothing and update the heap she (Miller) is living
Miller won the "Leadership for a Changing
World" anyway. In granting the award, the Ford
Foundation noted, "In a part of the United
States where mining for metal has had a devastating
effect on the environment and public health, Barbara
Miller has mobilized residents to force the cleanup
of contamination. She has also created a network
of health and policy officials who are examining
the residual impacts of lead poisoning on public
health throughout the Northwest."
On other occasions, Miller's critics were successful
in blocking grants to her group. Miller says the
Catholic Church in 2000 rescinded an award under
pressure from some local residents.
Bond has directed additional attacks toward Paddock,
a former Wallace resident who moved away after she
discovered her house was severely contaminated with
lead dust, an allegation that is central to a lawsuit
filed against two real estate agencies and the former
owner of the house, claiming they failed to inform
the Paddocks about the risk. Paddock is also a former
board member of SV PAC.
In a Nov. 7, 2001 commentary Bond wrote: "You
(Paddock) sit down there with the Spruce Goose in
McMinnville and take pot shots at us, and you sit
on Barbarian Millstone's board of directors - the
sole purpose of which is to terrorize honest, working
people here in the Silver Valley."
After Bond published a threatening column last
July, Paddock filed a complaint with the Shoshone
County Sheriff. Bond responded with an email threatening
to file charges "for the felony of attempted
And on occasion Bond targets members of the news
media. For instance, in a Jan. 27, 2001, column
Bond described how a Cascadia Times reporter could
be pushed down a mine shaft.
Let's lace up the jack boots and play Waco
In May 2000, the EPA notified Idaho officials that
the agency would formally propose a Superfund in
the basin if the state did not agree to an adequately
funded cleanup. Almost immediately, Idaho's congressional
delegation called on the Ombudsman's office to investigate
the decision. Days later, EPA Ombudsman investigator
Hugh Kaufman was quoted in Hagadone's Coeur D'Alene
Press as saying people in Idaho have reason to be
afraid of the EPA. "It sounds like they are
saying you better get an agreement before we lace
up the jack boots and start playing Waco with you."
Last July, Bond wrote that if he was mayor of Kellogg,
he would "reaffirm" for property owners
"their right to shoot trespassers on sight,
if they are employees or agents of the EPA or (state)
Department of Environmental Quality." In September
he wrote that locals should be required to arm themselves
against federal agents seeking access to private
property, comparing these agents to the people who
blew up the World Trade Center. "The people
... who continue to take deadly aim at the Coeur
d'Alene Mining District aren't traveling on forged
passports. But they are terrorists just the same."
On Dec. 11, 2001, Bond wrote this in the Shoshone
News Press: "The EPA is on its way, and you
won't like the consequences
EPA decides to
expand its mission. It sends in its hired guns like
B-52 bombers to soften the targeted area. Then it
goes in for the kill with its law-de greed ground
Idaho politicians also seem to revel in EPA-bashing.
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican, said in a Nov.
13 speech in Wallace that EPA should all but butt
out of Idaho.
"The bureaucracy of the EPA is absolutely
non-responsive and we've had it. Absolutely had
it," Kempthorne said. "I've become so
frustrated with EPA that I'm on the verge of asking
EPA to leave the state of Idaho."
Predictably, Hagadone's newspapers gave prominent
play to stories on the governor's speech. Kempthorne
and the newspapers are allies in supporting legislation
allowing increased casino gambling in the area.
The papers are owned by the Hagadone Corporation
which in 1998 contributed $10,000 to Kempthorne's
successful run for governor.
Kempthorne's comments played well in Northern Idaho
judging from letters to the editor from people cheering
the governor on.
"He took a courageous stand worthy of all
our support," James H. Hollingworth of Coeur
d'Alene wrote in a letter published in the Coeur
d'Alene Press. "It appears we are being held
hostage by the EPA and a few radicals who only have
to threaten to sue to cause us to back off. It is
time we sued them and the radical judges who refuse
to stand for American principles and the Constitution."
But EPA workers were not as thrilled. Before the
meeting, EPA officials called for increased security
for employees. Cami Grandinetti, the EPA's cleanup
manager in Kellogg since 1996, said the agency's
employees remain wary if not altogether frightened
for their safety.
"I was there," Grandinetti said. "I
don't personally think I'm a target or that there's
a threat against me. I feel uneasy. But I don't
feel there would be any sort of retaliation taken.
That being said, I really wish it were easier to
work in that community."
The EPA has asked the newspapers to tone down the
rhetoric. Last summer, Charles E. Findley, then
interim director of the EPA's Northwest regional
office in Seattle, complained in a letter to the
Shoshone News-Press that one of its columns "plainly
suggests that your readers shoot EPA employees."
"Much has been said during the sometimes acrimonious
debates regarding EPA's work to protect children
from environmental threats in the Silver Valley,"
Findley wrote. "However, it is wrong and dangerous
for anyone, particularly the media, to say or print
anything that can be perceived as a physical threat
A former friend goes bonkers
In an interview with Cascadia Times, Bond said
his columns containing threats were written "tongue
"I just want somebody to unfuck a dastardly
wrong here," he says. "It is the absolute
abuse of this area by people like Barbara Miller,
by the EPA and by corporations like the Union Pacific
of a wonderful place." Bond said the Union
Pacific has been allowed to walk away from enormous
amounts of contamination.
D.F. Oliveria, an editorial writer for the Spokane
Spokesman-Review, a newspaper that competes against
Hagadone's newspapers in Northern Idaho, recently
described Bond in a column as "a mine industry
spokesman allowed to masquerade as a Coeur d'Alene
Press correspondent." In the same column, Oliveria
took a shot at Hagadone's newspapers with this blurb:
"Friends don't let friends get important news
from Brand X."
Bond denies he is working for the mining industry.
"I can't stand those people - they're media
idiots," he said of its local leaders.
As for Oliveria, Bond said, "I'm measuring
carpet for Oliveria's office. I'm suing the son
of a bitch for all he's worth."
Oliveria declined to be interviewed, but in an
email to one of the sources for this article indicated
that hard feelings toward Barbara Miller are heard
all the way to Spokane: "The vicious attacks
we receive every time we print something nice about
her is proof that she's surrounded by some very
Jim Fisher, an editorial writer for the Lewiston
Tribune and former editor of a newspaper in Kellogg
(though not the one owned by Hagadone), is also
dismayed by what's printed in Hagadone's newspapers.
"As an Idahoan by choice, a Washingtonian by
birth, I'm embarrassed, and not reluctant to say
so," Fisher says. "Of course Hagadone
is pushing his business interests with his crusade
against EPA, especially the prospect that Lake Coeur
d'Alene - Coeur Duane - is included in a Superfund
designation. And most Idaho politicians have been
only to happy to pander to him. Former Gov. Phil
Batt would be pushed only so far, but his replacement
(Dirk Kempthorne) is a true patsy."
As for Bond, Fisher dismisses him as "a former
friend and competitor
who has apparently
gone bonkers since I last saw him."