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The Senate took final action Wednesday to consolidate two Department of Environmental Quality divisions that handle dangerous waste.
Sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, SB244 would merge the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste and Division of Radiation Control. It would also merge the two citizen rule-making boards currently associated with these divisions, and that's not sitting well with members of the Radiation Control Board.
"The new larger board would have to tackle a much wider range of issues, requiring even more preparatory work and longer meetings," the board said in a formal statement Tuesday. "It is regrettable that no input was sought from the board or the majority of stakeholders by the DEQ or the authors of SB244."
Merging the two small divisions, which collectively employ 79 people, is intended to improve operations, according to DEQ director Amanda Smith.
"We are looking not only to increase efficiency and save dollars for the state and for who we regulate, but also increase the quality of the work that we do. It's not going to bring into question our agreement-state status and delegated authority from EPA," Smith told lawmakers. "What's it's doing is rearranging how those two divisions are organized. We think we'll increase quality by cross-pollinating some of our technical staff."
But recasting the two boards into a single Waste Management and Radiation Control Board has proven controversial. The new board would have 11 voting members, five from regulated industries, a professional engineer, two non-federal government representatives and three from the general public.
Such a heavy voice from the waste, uranium and radioactive waste businesses is excessive, according to Matt Pacenza of the environmental group HEAL Utah.
"We don't understand why this board gets five members from industry and the others have three [of nine members total]," said Pacenza. "Most other states don't have industry representation on these boards."
HEAL doesn't oppose the merger, just the new board's makeup. But Smith said the diverse businesses affected by environmental regulations are entitled to a seat on this board.
"No board makeup is perfect, but the new board strikes as close a balance as we could with the industries that are regulated, the general public and health professionals," said Smith, who serves on all the DEQ boards but only votes to break ties.