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Thursday, October 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Of rules review, air quality, primacy and the feds…

At the first portion of this afternoon’s House Energy, Environment & Technology Committee meeting, Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who had been on that panel before she was stripped of all her committee assignments this morning, was sitting in the audience, agency rule book open on her lap, following the proceedings. A concern she often expresses was stated instead by Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, who’s on the panel. Nate expressed concern about proposed rule changes from the state Department of Environmental Quality that include incorporating by reference a series of federal regulations regarding the federal Clean Air Act and air quality.

“The whole incorporation by reference process is one that has bothered me for a long time,” Nate said. He noted that Idaho state law requires Idaho’s environmental regulations to be no more stringent than those of the federal government, but they also have to be as stringent. “That tells me we are going to do whatever the federal government tells us to do on this issue,” he said. “So in essence, the federal government is controlling our laws.” He asked the DEQ’s Air Quality Division administrator, Tiffany Floyd, “Can you tell us where the constitutional authority is for the federal government to set laws for Idaho’s environmental quality?”

She responded, “It’s through the Clean Air Act that those requirements exist for EPA to follow all those national requirements … and if it’s not EPA doing that, and ensuring that the Clean Air Act is met, then a state can be granted primacy to implement it for their own state. That is what we are doing here. That is the underlying requirement.”

Committee Chairman Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, said, “We’ve gone through this in other years, time and time again. If we do not conform with these rules, then Idaho DEQ has no authority to administer any of them, and it would be left strictly up to the EPA to come in and administer these rules and take the authority away from our department. … I guess you’re caught in a mousetrap here, but at least we have our own people to work with rather than someone from Washington, D.C., to make it more feasible and convenient for Idaho citizens.”

The committee then voted 12-1 to approve the rule, with only Nate dissenting.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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