New 'Department of Environmental Quality' could become reality by spring

Jan 11, 2019

Two years ago, the Legislature created a new “Department of Environmental Quality,” taking the division of the state Health Department that deals with environmental matters and giving it its own identity.

Even though that enabling legislation was passed, the new DEQ had to jump through some bureaucratic hoops with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, so it could administer such items as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

DEQ executive director Dave Glatt said that all takes time, although he said it was a lot more complicated than he thought it would be.

"At first blush, it's just a name change," Glatt said in an interview. "Same people, same building, nothing's changed."

But Glatt said the federal EPA has to review every rule, to make sure nothing has changed. And he said EPA was accepting comments about the plan to create the new office.

"All we had to do on the state level is take out the term 'Department of Health,' and make it DEQ," Glatt said.

Glatt said about 90 percent of the review is done, and he expects the remaining will be done by mid-March.

The new agency will have more than 150 employees, and a $50 million budget.