New rules by the EPA require big businesses to monitor and report greenhouse gases. Benjamin Grumbles, the new head of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, discusses the new rules.
Ted Simons: The environmental protection agency recently issued rules that require big companies to monitor and report greenhouse gas emissions. How does the Arizona department of environmental quality see the new rules? Here to answer that question is Benjamin Grumbles, director of ADEQ. These new rules, these are meant to what, make requirements more flexible, reporting more flexible? What's happening?
Ben Grumbles: We think that reasonable reporting requirements help reduce emissions, reward stewardship, and inform policy decisions, so this rule while not -- while not perfect, it's a good solid step forward. It basically is providing information for the first time ever, national, uniform information system to help inform all of us how to reduce greenhouse gas emission and have a greener economy.
Ted Simons: Some would say more flexible-yes-but that may be at the cost of comprehension and getting the job done. Your response?
Ben Grumbles: My response is that the rules have to be cost effective, and flexible. And pragmatic. So this is a good step, it's going to provide information. The rules cover 85% of the national greenhouse gas emissions. We're comfortable with many aspects of the rule because we and our partners in the western climate initiative made it very clear that there need to be some thresholds, you need to look to reduce reporting, and you need to make sure that small entities are not caught up in the reporting system.
Ted Simons: Talk about the relationship between the western climate initiative and what's happening on a federal national level here. Was the western climate initiative a bit of a precursor, an inspiration?
Ben Grumbles: The western climate initiative has been providing some impetus to develop a national approach. Arizona continues to be a partner, and a member of this western climate initiative of different states throughout the west. We think it's important, it provides us an opportunity to provide an Arizona-specific or a western-specific view to EPA, and to Congress as they consider broader national approaches.
Ted Simons: So Arizona still involved with the western climate initiative. I know there are some lawmakers and some folks around the state who would rather that not happen, want to get us out of this whole thing. Your response?
Ben Grumbles: And Governor Brewer's response is that it's important to be engaged, to be protecting Arizona's interests. It's important that the old saying that if you're not at the table, you may be on the menu. It does hold true in this instance. So we're providing valuable input. We do push back. We have robust discussion was some of our other western states and most importantly, we provide information to Congress and to EPA to say, look, we need to be more flexible or more cost effective in certain ways, and much of that is reflected in this final rule.
Ted Simons: The role of the department, the environmental quality, so people that are -- can become more familiar with what you do, talk about roles and responsibilities.
Ben Grumbles: Well I'm honored to be the agency's new director. The agency has the important mission of protecting public health and the environment throughout the state. There are about 600 employees, and we focus on ensuring the air is cleaner, the water purer, the land better protected, and we focus on climate change and on issuing permits and ensuring standards are in place. And work with business and industry to advance the state's public health and welfare.
Ted Simons: How about budget cuts? What are you facing, what are you seeing?
Ben Grumbles: Well our agency like all state agencies are affected by the budget cuts. It's an opportunity for us to look for ways to be leaner and greener, to reduce red tape. It does have an impact, and we want to be sure that we have the people in place to run the programs that protect the environment. I think we're making headway, we're finding ways to be more efficient. But it also means we have to work harder to build partnerships with the private sector, to look to fees, to various innovative financing so we can run environmental programs throughout the state and work with business communities to make environmental progress, while maintaining our state's economic competitiveness.
Ted Simons: Is there a way of innovative financing that has caught your eye?
Ben Grumbles: There are several aspects. When it comes to leveraging federal dollars, it's very important to look for ways to have cost sharing, to have innovative public-private partnerships, that's particularly the case with water and wastewater infrastructure systems. Fees are very important aspect of sustainability. So as we look to maintain our programs and to build partnerships, provide the services that we provide, we know that fees for air and water permits are going to be an important part of the process.
Ted Simons: Federal stimulus money, how does it affect your department?
Ben Grumbles: It's a very important part of ensuring environmental protection throughout our state. We -- I think the state should be quite proud of how agencies in the state, particularly our agency, is moving quickly to get those dollars in place so that the shovels are in the ground. $80 million in new money for water and wastewater infrastructure systems have been provided and are being distributed. $3 million for cleaning up underground storage tanks and revitalizing brownfields. So federal stimulus dollars, we shouldn't rely on them forever, they can help jump-start good ideas and projects and we're doing exactly that.
Ted Simons: I can't let you go without commenting on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. A lot of controversy and a lot of concern. How is that mining operation good for the quality of the environment?
Ben Grumbles: Well, I'm glad you asked that. One of the key -- we feel one of the key aspects of a sustainable energy policy for the nation involves nuclear power. In Arizona, nuclear power provides about 24% of the state's energy supply. Electricity supply. Uranium is a key part of that. Our agency, whose job it is to protect husband health and the -- public health and the environment, feels it's so important to protect the Grand Canyon and the natural resources throughout our state. There are some opportunities in the northern portion of Arizona to allow for uranium mining to go forward if proper and strong environmental safeguards are in place. We have worked very hard over the last several years to ensure that permits are in place for a few particular mines, and frankly I'm encouraged based on the air safeguards and the water safeguards for one of the permits we just issued that we're going to see progress by having uranium mining done in a protective way, and also provide a valuable carbon-free fuel for the future.
Ted Simons: I know the major concern, though, is for Colorado river water and for groundwater in the area. From where you sit, can you tell those that are concerned about that that safety is being looked at and those things will be protected?
Ben Grumbles: Absolutely. And the concerns are well placed that we always want to make sure that this state's precious groundwater supplies and water supplies, whether it's the Colorado river, or other water bodies throughout the state are protected. For uranium mining, we're looking extra hard and carefully to make sure that pollution does not migrate into groundwater, or into the lower or upper Colorado rivers. And that's important. So for some of the pending permits, we haven't made our final decisions. But for at least one of them we feel we've got some safeguards in place, and any good permit is going to require continuous monitoring and accountability. That is a key component. And we're absolutely committed to that.
Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
Ben Grumbles: Thank you.
Benjamin Grumbles:Director,Arizona Department of Environmental Quality;