Chalk air pollution regulators up as the latest group to splinter because of increasingly divisive partisanship in Washington, D.C. Regulators from 17 states—including Kentucky and Indiana—are forming a new association to assist states with air pollution policies.
Right now, 43 states are members of a group called the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, or NACAA. The group has been around for 32 years, and is a non-partisan member organization that represents state and local air regulators.
But now, a number of states are forming their own group…the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies, or AAPCA. Tom Easterly is the Commissioner of Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management. Indiana is one of several states that will only be a member of the new organization; Kentucky is retaining its membership with both.
“We want to focus on science, and taking actions that will actually improve air quality and work with other states that have that same mindset,” Easterly said in a conference call with reporters.
“I think that this organization, we will mostly stay in the science,” he added. “But sometimes, the science should drive the policy and in that case, when we all agree that the science is right and should drive the policy, we’ll work as members together to figure that out and it will be our policy, and not necessarily the staff’s policy.”
Easterly also noted that many member states were frustrated that their voices weren’t being heard in discussions.
The director of NACAA rejected the idea that his group’s policy positions weren’t based on science. Bill Becker says when concerns about the organization’s bylaws were raised, the group made changes in order to increase participation and democracy.
“It’s certainly fair for them to join anyone they want to join,” Becker said. “But it’s not fair for them to criticize based on issues that have been reconciled subsequent to them bringing it to our attention.”
Regardless of which states are members of which group, the real question seems to be how this would or could affect the debate over air pollution in Washington, D.C. Frank O’Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch says the new group has close ties with the coal industry, and wants to fight efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
“Historically state and local clean air agencies have been very critical players in promoting progress toward cleaner air,” he said. “Now, what I think we’re going to see is when there’s a hearing on Capitol Hill, Republican members will call members from one of these other states and they’ll say ‘Well we don’t agree with the positions of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. And that will be an attempt to blunt the progressive group that has always worked for the benefit of clean air.”
Of the 17 states that have splintered off to join the new group, all but two have Republican governors. The remaining two—Kentucky and West Virginia—are coal-producing states and the governors of both states have criticized some of the measures the Environmental Protection Agency has taken to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Louisville’s Air Pollution Control Agency is a local member of the NACAA.