Bill Changing DEQ Boards Receives House Approval

(KCPW News)  A bill that would shrink the Department of Environmental Quality boards that oversee air quality, hazardous waste, water quality, and radiation control passed the Utah House of Representatives today.  It also gives voting power to the department director who sits on each of the boards, which troubles Minority Leader David Litvack.

“When a decision goes against an interest group or a constituency base, there are always going to be questions on why the executive director made that decision,” said Litvack.  “And that will speak directly to whether or not the governor has inserted undue influence into this process.”

Opponents of the bill are also concerned it removes input from physicians and other public health officials.

Representative Jim Nielson argued that giving more power to the department director makes complete sense as that person answers to the governor, who in turn answers to voters.

“For some reason in our minds we believe that if we have a non-elected, appointed group, that that group will be independent and therefore will represent the public more closely,” said Nielson.  “My question is who does respond to the public more?  The one who has to face them in an election or the one who is completely insulated?”

Senate Bill 21 passed the House on a 52 to 18 vote and will go back to the Senate for another vote because an amendment was made.