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Archaeological Dig Uncovers the ‘Other Side’ of Boise History

BOISE • Animal bones, 13 marbles, shoe leather, ceramic shards, a cherry pitter, and the remains of what may be the oldest Basque racket court in town.

The items hint at a picture of life a hundred years ago in Boise’s River Street neighborhood just north of the Boise River. Most closely associated with the city’s African-American community, the neighborhood was in reality a more diverse one with residents from the Basque Country and from Ireland. Chinatown, too, was mere blocks away.

A common thread through the diversity: “This was a block of Boise’s relatively disenfranchised,” said Mark Warner, a professor of archaeology at the University of Idaho.

The blue-collar neighborhood is the focus of a six-week archaeological dig continuing through July 3 near the corner of Ash and River streets. Much of the dig is taking place surrounding the 108-year-old Hayman House. A black woman, Erma Hayman, bought the house in 1947 after she was denied the opportunity to buy a house on the Boise Bench. She lived in the house until her death in 2009. Her family sold the house to the Capital City Development Corp. at that time.

“The big narrative of this project is finding the remains of everyday life and people largely forgotten. Working class folks,” Warner said.

A couple of weeks in, the dig uncovered the remains of an outdoor fronton — a Basque handball court — beneath a green patch of lawn owned by Boise Parks and Recreation that faces River Street. Warner believes it may be the oldest fronton in Boise, or the oldest on record. A Sanborn fire insurance map from 1912 includes the fronton as well as scores of long-gone houses.

“But just because you have a map, it doesn’t mean something is really there,” Bill White said.

In this case, it did.

White, a Boise native, is working toward his doctorate in anthropology at the University of Arizona. It was he who suggested a dig focusing on the River Street area. He plans to base his dissertation on the dig and has already produced the River Street Digital History Project with support from the Boise Department of Arts and History.

This particular dig has had both good timing and great “serendipity,” he said. The city has been receptive to having the project on its land. The Capital City Development Corporation, the city’s urban renewal agency, owns most of the property where the dig is taking place, save two small sections owned by Boise Parks and Recreation. The neighborhood, which has caught the eye of developers over the years because of its prime location near the river between Boise State University and Downtown Boise, also benefited from the recession a few years ago that put development on hold, White said.

“That was a godsend for archaeology,” he said.

The project is unique in terms of social outreach, Warner said.


Teachers Get Math, Science Lessons

TWIN FALLS • Kevin Collins has a flaming textbook he used to capture students’ attention on the first day of school.

The retired Boise science teacher used to ask his middle schoolers a question: “What is science?”

Collins told them he’d read a definition from a textbook. When he opened it, flames shot up from the pages. He used tools such as a lantern lighter and kerosene to make it happen. The punch line: “Sometimes, science is too hot to handle.”

It’s a way to entertain students, Collins said, but teachers have to connect it back to science. “Once you have their attention, you need to take them somewhere.”

It’s a lesson he passed along to teachers Monday during an i-STEM summer institute at the College of Southern Idaho.

More than 90 kindergarten through 12th grade teachers are learning how to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math, fields collectively called STEM.

The annual workshop continues through Thursday. Nearly 600 teachers are participating in six sessions around Idaho this month.

Teachers pick one topic to focus on all week, such as airplane design, how to use mobile devices in classrooms and exploring energy.

Workshops are organized by i-STEM, an Idaho partnership of educators, government agencies, companies and organizations.

JoAnn Christenson, a fourth-grade teacher at Heyburn Elementary School, is participating in a “science by design” workshop for a second year.

“It’s all about the science practice we can use every day in our classroom,” she said.

Christenson already uses hands-on activities from last year’s workshop — especially, having students work with hydroponic sand and make silly putty.

Plus, she incorporates writing into lessons. Her students keep a science notebook where they record information.

Collins and his wife, Betty, who taught elementary school, are leading the “science by design” workshop. It aligns with goals under Common Core Standards — using writing throughout a variety of subject areas.

Collins used to work as the Idaho Department of Education’s science coordinator under state Superintendent Marilyn Howard.

No Child Left Behind “single-handedly pushed science out of elementary schools,” he said. “I want it back.”

Now, a national and state push is underway to improve STEM education. And Idaho employers say they need computer science/technology and engineering workers.

For teachers, a goal is to feel comfortable teaching STEM subjects, said event coordinator John Hughes, associate dean of student success at CSI.

On Monday, Steven Gardner — an adjunct science instructor at CSI — was leading a workshop about BYOD: bring your own device.

He’s teaching participants how to incorporate mobile devices into their classrooms and how students can use Microsoft Cloud to record data during science experiments.

Cara Crist and Lori Baker, third-grade teachers at Bickel Elementary School, want to learn how their school can better use tablets.

“We’re hoping to bring back more ideas,” Crist said.

Bickel Elementary has one tablet for every student, paid for by a nearly $169,000 grant the school received in September from the Idaho Department of Education.

During Monday’s workshop, Crist and Baker were also introduced to ozobots — miniature robots students can use to learn programming.

It caught their attention. They’d like to get a grant to bring that technology to Bickel classrooms in the future.


Boise, Twin Falls Trial Lawyers Honored

SUN VALLEY | Timothy C. Walton and Dennis Voorhees received top honors at the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association’s annual convention earlier this month.

Walton, from Boise, was named James J. May Trial Lawyer of the Year, while Voorhees, from Twin Falls, received the association’s Professionalism Award.

Walton was honored for his dedication to the practice of law, his active community involvement, and his commitment to the preservation of the civil justice system, the association said in a written statement.

Walton received his law degree from the University of Idaho College of Law , graduating cum laude in 1977.

In recent years, Walton has primarily focused on obtaining justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse. He and his longtime law partner, Andrew Chasan, have represented 130 such survivors in a case against a Roman Catholic religious order in the Northwest.

The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, known as the Northwest Jesuits, agreed in 2011 to pay $166 million to more than 500 victims of sexual abuse. The settlement was one of the largest abuse settlements by the Catholic Church.

Walton and Chasan, the association’s 2014 recipient of the Professionalism Award, currently represent alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse in a case against the Boy Scouts of America and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in federal court in Idaho.

Walton has also served as a mediator in over 700 personal injury cases and is a past president of the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association.

The award is named after ITLA’s founding member and first president, retired 5th District Judge James J. May.

The Professionalism Award given to Voorhees, is named after renowned Idaho plaintiff’s lawyer Walter H. Bithell of Boise. It recognizes commitment to integrity, excellence and professionalism as a lawyer for all clients, colleagues, judges and legal staff members.

Voorhees, a New Jersey native, has been practicing law in Idaho since 1978 and is a sole practitioner. He is certified as an elder law attorney and as a certified estate law planning specialist. He also serves as the Idaho representative for the Special Needs Alliance, a group of attorneys who specialize in the establishment of trusts for people with disabilities.

He also serves on the Idaho Supreme Court Committee on Guardianships and Conservatorship.

He and his wife, LeNee, have seven children.

The association is a voluntary statewide bar association dedicated to justice for all Idahoans and the improvement of the administration of justice.

The group’s 43rd annual convention was held June 5 in Sun Valley.


CSI Eliminates RN Waiting List

TWIN FALLS • The College of Southern Idaho won’t accept applicants for its registered nursing program for the next two semesters.

That’s because the college is eliminating its waiting list. Students who are currently on the list will be enrolled in the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters.

Applications will be accepted again starting January 2016 for the semester that begins in fall 2016.

Due to the high job demand, salary and benefits offered to registered nurses, there have always been more applicants than the 50 students CSI can accommodate each semester.

As a result, the school has typically accepted all qualifying applicants, putting the excess number on a waiting list.

Eliminating the waiting list will bring the RN program in line with all of CSI’s other health science programs, which have never used a waiting list, said RN department chairwoman Valerie Warner.

New application guidelines will also allow CSI to choose only the top 50 applicants each semester.

Qualifying students must have successfully completed English composition I, college algebra or elementary statistics, human anatomy and physiology 1, and at least three general-education credits required by the RN degree prior to application. Additional classes will be required within seven years of application.

Each applicant will then take the nursing entrance exam, and the top point-earning students will be admitted.

Students who apply starting next January will have until Feb. 15, 2016, to complete their application to be considered for the fall 2016 RN class.


Weather: Welcome To Summer

Summer officially arrived Sunday at 10:39 a.m. MDT, and our weather is not only going to feel like summer but more like the peak of Summer in late July and August. The heat is coming, you have been warned.

I’m not a fan of the heat and I never have been. With the cold, you can do a lot of things to warm up and usually warm up fast and effectively. When it’s hot outside you can only go so far in trying to cool off and there just comes a point where you can’t cool off anymore. I think that’s one of the reasons I don’t like the heat. Yes the heat is coming and we could see our first 100-plus degree days since late July of last year.

We will see 90 degree temperatures starting Tuesday through Friday. Each day will get hotter and hotter, then by Saturday and Sunday we could see our temperatures climb into the triple digits. Highs Saturday will be right around 100 in the valley with low to middle 90s in the mountains. Sunday and Monday highs will range from 101 to 104 across the valley with middle to upper 90s in the mountains.

Heat safety is important and it’s vital we take care of and look after our family, neighbors and our pets when temperatures get this hot. Drink plenty of fluids. Monitor how much time your kids spend outdoors playing. Keep pets cool with shade and plenty of water to drink and if you don’t have to take your pet with you on errands, just leave them at home. If you do take your pet or even your children check and double check to make sure they are not in the car when you get out. Leaving the window cracked is not enough to keep anyone cool when the heat is in the 90s and 100s.


Idaho Group Sues Predator-control Agency for Information

BOISE (AP) | An Idaho conservation group has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to force a federal agency to turn over information about its methods and activities in killing wildlife in the state.

The Western Watersheds Project filed the 18-page lawsuit Monday against the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services.

The lawsuit contends the federal agency is violating the Freedom of Information Act by not supplying information the group asked for in five formal requests in February and March.

"We're seeking more detailed information on how they operate," said Talasi Brooks, an attorney at Advocates for the West representing the Idaho group. "They're not very forthcoming on that."

In a separate lawsuit filed in February, the Western Watersheds Project and four other groups sued Wildlife Services contending federal and Idaho officials are violating environmental laws by killing wolves, coyotes and other wildlife to protect livestock and crops.

The lawsuit filed Monday is distinct from the one filed in February, Brooks said.

The U.S. Department of Justice didn't return a call from The Associated Press on Monday.

Among the information sought in the most recent lawsuit involves Wildlife Services' Pocatello Supply Depot. The Western Watersheds Project wants to find out if animal poison is being produced there or if devices to kill predators are simply being assembled there, Brooks said.

"I am very curious about the Pocatello Supply Depot," Brooks said. "I want to know what they do, what they're making there. Whether it's at cost, or whether it's a taxpayer-subsidy operation."

Other information sought in the lawsuit incudes permits that Wildlife Services operates under in Idaho and equipment Wildlife Services owns or leases for animal damage control in the state.

The lawsuit also seeks information about specific wildlife management activities and details concerning cooperative agreements Wildlife Services has with other entities in the state.

The Western Watersheds Project plans to make the information public, Brooks said.


Kimberly Native Crowned ‘Miss Idaho’

KIMBERLY • Kimberly native Kalie Wright has been crowned Miss Idaho.

The 22-year-old will represent the state at the Miss America Pageant Sept. 13 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Wright is a 2011 Kimberly High School alumna. Her platform as Miss Magic Valley is Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to military troops, their families and wounded soldiers.

She’s also the current Miss National Sweetheart. The competition is open to first runners-up in every state’s Miss America pageant.

She won the Miss Idaho pageant Saturday in Nampa.

Wright wants to eventually attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. and study marketing.

She also enjoys singing, and performs around the Magic Valley.

Wright is the second Magic Valley native to be crowed Miss Idaho in two years. In 2014, Sierra Sandison won the America’s Choice award and made it to the top 15 in the Miss America Pageant.


Idaho University Officials Report Program, Staff Cuts

BOISE (AP) | All four of Idaho's four-year public universities and colleges have eliminated degree programs, dissolved academic departments or reduced staff during the past year as part of a statewide effort to cut costs and prioritize college programs.

Boise State University restructured several of its academic departments, resulting in the removal of its College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs. Meanwhile, the University of Idaho discontinued 19 degree options. Those options included included bachelor degrees in American Studies, Art Education and Medical Technology. Lewis Clark State College consolidated a student testing center, and Idaho State University eliminated eight degree programs.

Idaho's State Board of Education first directed college officials to evaluate programs in 2013 after seeing a decrease in revenue from tuition and state funds. College officials gave an update to the board last week and will report annually to the board as they continue to make changes.

The board only required colleges to review programs rather than uniformly trim each budget the same amount. However, colleges were given instructions that programs that evaluated poorly must find ways to improve.

Each school assessed its programs differently, but according to the universities, reviews were based on demand, student retention, graduation and efficiency.

"The question was: Are we providing programs students need?" said Blake Youde, board spokesman. "There has been a consistent concern over the cost of higher education and falling revenue from the state legislature."

In 2008, state lawmakers approved more than $259.5 million to help cover 26 percent of the combined budgets of all four universities. This year — following the economic downturn and slow recovery— lawmakers approved $246.5 million or less than 20 percent of the combined budgets. At the same time, schools have seen stagnant enrollment.

Boise State University faced substantial expense cuts during the 2014-2015 school year because of a shortfall in its $440 million budget at the same time that it carried out its program changes, said Jim Munger, vice provost for academic affairs for the university.

The academic division had to find a way to reduce more than $1 million in its budget. Non-academic divisions left multiple positions vacant and reorganized to cut costs. For example, officials are now looking to invest in their own campus security rather than rely primarily on the Boise Police Department.

"The first year we talked the talk. But this past year we really had to walk the walk," Munger said.

Up north, the University of Idaho not only cut degree and certificate programs, it also consolidated six programs into different departments. The biggest hit went to the university's music departments. The school reduced nine degree programs to three with different areas of emphasis and made the university's music theatre major degree program a minor.

Lewis Clark State College had the least amount of changes. It discontinued three academic degrees and two certificates.


In a State Without Crude Oil or Refineries, Idahoans are Hit Hard at the Pump

Idaho reached a milestone when the price of regular gas dipped below $2 a gallon at Idaho stations last December. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the Gem State recorded the lowest gasoline prices in the nation.

“I can’t recall a time when that’s happened,” said Brett DeLange, an assistant attorney general who heads the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office and has monitored gas prices for eight years.

Crude oil prices had collapsed, but refiners continued processing crude oil, leading to a supply glut.

“Supply just exceeded demand. And when you’ve got too much of something, you cut the price,” said Charley Jones, owner of Stinker Stores, a Boise company with 65 stores in Idaho.

Flash forward six months. Idaho today is back where it normally sits among the 50 states: near the top of the price range for motorists looking to fill their tanks.

At the end of May, Idahoans paid the ninth-highest gas prices in the nation, according to a comparison compiled by the Attorney General’s Office. A gallon of regular gas cost $2.88, on average.

Californians paid the highest price, $3.72, with Idaho’s neighbor to the south, Nevada, No. 2 at $3.31. Other nearby states, Washington, Oregon and Utah, were fifth through seventh, with gas costing $3.04 to $3.06.

Idaho’s average prices tend to exceed the national average slightly, even though the state’s gas tax is about a nickel below the national average. And Treasure Valley prices often exceed the statewide average, which is brought down by frequently lower prices in cities like Coeur d’Alene and Pocatello.

Crude oil drives prices

Many drivers figure oil company executives sit around figuring out ways to gouge consumers for as much as they can. DeLange, Jones and other Idaho gasoline-industry leaders say the pricing structure is more complicated than that.

The cost of crude oil is the biggest single factor that goes into determining how much motorists pay at the pump. Crude oil prices are highly volatile. They are determined on a global basis driven by supply and demand.

Over the past year, the cost of a barrel of crude — which holds 42 gallons and produces 19 gallons of gasoline, along with other products — has fluctuated greatly. It went from a 52-week high of $97.27 on June 26, 2014, to a low of $47.46 on March 18, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Last month, the cost of crude oil accounted for 52 percent — $1.41 — of the price of a gallon of gas in Idaho selling at $2.73. The remaining $1.32 was 2 cents less than what AAA says is the national-average difference between the cost of crude and the price of a gallon.

On Wednesday, crude oil was selling for $60.93. The U.S. Energy Information Administration blames recent higher gas prices on the rising cost of crude oil and outages at two refineries in California and the Midwest.

The agency predicts crude oil prices will average $61 per barrel through the end of 2015 and $67 a barrel next year. It expects gas prices to decline nationally through the end of this year, averaging $2.43 per gallon of regular for the next six months.

The retail cost of gas generally lags behind increases and decreases of crude oil. But retail prices rise faster than they fall.

“As prices go up, retailers are hesitant to keep increasing,” DeLange said. “They don’t want to be the first one to increase. But as the wholesale prices drop, they also want to hold on a little bit longer to that previously higher price.”

Idaho, like neighboring Oregon, endures high gasoline prices in part because it contains no oil reserves and no refineries. Southern Idaho depends on one company’s pipelines to deliver all the fuel we put in our cars and trucks.

Gasoline comes to Southern Idaho, including the Treasure Valley, through one of two 65-year-old, 8-inch-wide underground pipelines running in parallel from Salt Lake City. The second pipeline carries other fuels, including diesel, jet fuel and heating oil. The pipelines are now owned by the Tesoro Corp.

Although the state says it has no evidence of price gouging, the lack of an alternative supply means there is no competition to help keep delivery costs down.

“When you have one source of supply, supply and demand in our capitalist system dictates that that supplier is pretty empowered,” said Jones, whose company also operates its own gasoline delivery fleet through Westpoint Transportation.

Idaho shares this plight with other Western states, said Dave Carlson, director of government affairs for AAA Idaho in Boise.

“It goes without saying that much of the West — not just Idaho — is held hostage to its own lack of alternate supplies to gasoline,” Carlson said. “If you have limited numbers of refineries in this region, it stands to reason that once there is a shortage, for whatever reason, prices can go up.”

Utah and Wyoming have five oil refineries each, Montana has four and Colorado two. The Utah refineries, which obtain crude oil from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Canada, supply about 70 percent of the gasoline and diesel consumed in Utah and Idaho.

Shipping costs would wipe out any savings that might result from buying fuel from more-distant refineries, since they likely would have to be brought by truck.

“There are times when the stars align correctly and that does happen, you do get somebody trucking gasoline into the state,” Carlson said. “But, generally, it doesn’t work because of the cost.”

Idaho gas brought by pipe

The twin pipes carry fuels to three complexes of storage terminals — one large, one medium-sized and one quite small — off North Curtis Street, near Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center on the Boise Bench. The big terminal is operated by Tesoro, based in San Antonio; the midsized one by Sinclair Oil, based in Salt Lake City; and the small one by United Oil, of Twin Falls.

A spur line takes off near Burley, delivering gas products to Pocatello. Other spur lines provide jet fuel to Mountain Home Air Force Base and to Gowen Field in Boise.

It takes 66 hours for gasoline and 90 hours for other products to reach Boise on the 706-mile journey from Salt Lake City. A water plug separates the different fuels in the second pipeline and different-octane fuels in the gas pipeline.

The Tesoro Pipeline supplies 2.8 million to 3.1 million gallons of motor fuel per day, and it runs near capacity, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Ethanol, detergents and other additives determined by branded-gasoline suppliers such as Chevron, Shell and Sinclair are added at the local terminals. Jones’ stations sell Sinclair gas.

“Each of the terminals has dedicated ethanol storage, and when one of my tankers shows up to pull a load of fuel, we specify the octane level and our producer, Sinclair, has their additive package that they blend in,” Jones said. “Computers take care of the mix of that cocktail of products, and that’s what becomes Sinclair-branded gasoline. The same goes for Chevron, Shell, Texaco, those guys.”

The pipelines continue beyond the Treasure Valley, carrying fuel to terminals in Pasco, Wash., and Spokane.

Those cities have more sources of supply. North Idaho mostly gets its gas from refineries in Billings, Mont. That fuel is shipped through the Yellowstone Pipeline to terminals in Spokane. Other gasoline from the Puget Sound near Seattle is sent to Portland through a pipeline and then barged up the Columbia River to Pasco and a terminal near Lewiston at Wilma, Wash.

The greater number of suppliers means gas prices in North Idaho tend to be lower than in Southern Idaho . The average cost of a gallon of regular gas Friday was $2.79 in Coeur d’Alene, $2.90 in Pocatello and $3.04 in Boise, according to AAA. The national average was $2.80. The lowest Boise price Friday on GasBuddy.com, which relies on anecdotal motorist reports, was $2.91.

Gas in Pocatello is cheaper than in Boise because of Bannock County’s higher elevation, 4,462 feet vs. 2,704 feet, Carlson said. Regular gas in Eastern Idaho has a lower octane rating than in Southwest Idaho and requires less refining. The higher the elevation, the lower the octane needs to be to allow adequate firing of an engine’s cylinders.

“Eastern Idaho has a cheaper grade of gasoline,” Carlson said. “It’s an 87-octane gasoline once you add ethanol as an octane enhancer. Otherwise, it would be an 85-octane gasoline, which is cheaper to produce.”

Two decades ago, diesel cost significantly less than regular gas. By 2006, diesel had become more expensive because of increased world demand, especially in Europe and Asia. On Thursday, retail diesel prices were $2.89 in Pocatello, $2.93 in Lewiston and $3.05 in Boise, according to Gas Buddy.

Taxes add up

There are several other costs besides crude for each gallon you buy.

One of the biggest is taxes. Federal and state taxes add 43.4 cents to the cost of every gallon of gas and $49.4 cents for each gallon of diesel sold in Idaho. The federal government collects 18.4 cents a gallon, while the state takes 25 cents. The money pays to maintain roads and bridges and to build new roads.

Idaho’s gasoline and diesel excise tax is set to increase by 7 cents beginning July 1. The increase, the first since 1996, is expected to raise an extra $63.2 million a year.

After the increase, Idaho’s 50.4-cent combined tax will be slightly higher than the national average of 48.9 cents. Pennsylvania charges the highest tax, 70 cents per gallon. Alaska charges the lowest, 29.7 cents.

In addition, nearly a third of the cost of a gallon of gasoline goes to refining, costs for retailers and profit margins.

Adding ethanol adds to the price, too. Most fuel blends include 10 percent ethanol. Congress in 2007 ordered refiners to increase the blending of their gas with ethanol to promote plant-based alternatives to fossil fuels from hostile foreign nations. Most retailers sell blended fuel, although more than two dozen stations in Southwest Idaho sell ethanol-free gas.

Finally, there are profit margins for the companies involved. For retailers, margins swing wildly. Since 2009, profit margins in Idaho have typically ranged from 12 to 25 cents per gallon, said DeLange, citing data from the Oil Price Information Service. They reached 34 cents for Boise-area retailers last fall and climbed to 61 cents in late December, when retail prices were at their lowest.

“That’s just not the case now. The high margins are at the wholesale level right now,” DeLange said.

Even seemingly unconnected events can cause gas prices to soar.

A February fire at Exxon Mobil’s Torrance refinery outside Los Angeles — nearly 900 miles from Boise — brought higher prices in Idaho.

The refinery, which isn’t expected to complete most repairs until the July 4 weekend and has continued to produce well below capacity, is a major supplier to the Las Vegas area.

With supplies disrupted, Las Vegas dealers looked elsewhere for gas and found it — in Salt Lake City.

“So what that meant is that Idaho was cut short,” Carlson said.

Attorney General’s probes

Since 1998, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office has conducted three investigations into motor fuel prices. No violations of Idaho law were found in reports issued in 1998, 2006 and 2008.

The Idaho Competition Act prohibits price fixing through a conspiracy by two or more sellers but does not prevent companies from monitoring other stations’ prices or charging the same amount, DeLange said.

“The bottom line is that the law does not prohibit high prices, even if it’s gouging. Unfortunately, that’s the lay of the land,” DeLange said.

A second state law, the Idaho Consumer Protection Act, does prohibit gouging in limited circumstances. It outlaws charging an “exorbitant or excessive price” during a disaster or emergency following a declaration from the governor or U.S. president. The law does not establish when a price becomes exorbitant or excessive. Incidents are examined case by case.

Jones, from Stinker Stations, said his company is acutely aware of the going price for gas in each of its markets.

“We do price discovery every single day for every one of our stores,” he said. “We check our competitors’ prices and try and price our product competitively.”

Stinker was founded in 1936 when 20-year-old Farris Lind opened his first station in Twin Falls. He quickly earned a reputation as a “stinker” for selling his gas for less than the major oil companies’ stations.

Pipeline sale brings no price changes

Two years ago, Tesoro Logistics bought the pipelines between Salt Lake City and Spokane from Chevron for $355 million. The purchase included Chevron’s terminal on the Bench.

The pipelines are considered a public utility, so Tesoro must charge uniform prices regardless of who is shipping fuel. Tesoro’s charges add only a few cents to the cost of a gallon of gas — a practice that has not changed, Jones and DeLange said.

Tesoro already had a Boise storage terminal when it bought Chevron’s. So the Federal Trade Commission ordered Tesoro to sell its existing Boise terminal . The FTC feared gas prices in Boise would increase if Tesoro controlled two of the three terminals. Tesoro sold its terminal to Sinclair Oil.

The former Chevron terminal that Tesoro now owns has 25 tanks with a capacity of 18 million gallons of fuel, according to a filing with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Eight additional tanks store additives, including ethanol. The terminal owned by Sinclair includes eight storage tanks that hold 5 million gallons of fuel, according to the DEQ. The United Oil terminal has a capacity of 2,900 gallons, according to Greg Weigel, an inspector for the Boise office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

None of the terminal operators returned calls seeking comment for this story.

The Statesman also tried to reach John Jackson, CEO of Jackson Food Stores, which operates more than 200 stores in five Western states and operates its own gas transportation fleet. An assistant said he was out of town this week and was not available for comment.

In the end, Jones said, no one cares what he pays for gas or for Stinker Stores overhead. He said he understands that people are concerned only with the prices they pay when they stick a gas station’s nozzle into their filler pipe and start pumping.

“The price of fuel is the price of independence, if you will,” Jones said. “You can get in your car and drive wherever you want and get you there. There aren’t good alternatives to that in the rural West. That’s how you get around. That’s why people are so passionate about the pricing.”