Gov. Doug Burgum today highlighted the newly established Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the important work it does to protect the state’s air, land and water resources. The department held a public open house today after officially becoming an independent state agency on April 29.
“We created the Department of Environmental Quality to streamline government and acknowledge the importance of environmental protection in North Dakota by elevating that responsibility to a cabinet-level agency,” Burgum said. “This standalone department will provide a more direct pathway to setting and addressing priorities for environmental protection, working closely with the Governor’s Office now and in future administrations. It also gives our environmental team the autonomy they need to be more efficient, flexible and better able to implement federal regulations.”
The 2017 Legislature approved, and Burgum signed, Senate Bill 2327, which separated the Environmental Health Section from the state Department of Health to create the standalone DEQ. The bill gave the Health Department until July 1, 2019, to obtain the approvals and amend agreements necessary to ensure the state maintained strong primacy over all federal and state environmental regulations. The DEQ became an independent agency on April 29 after all programs completed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s review and approval process.
Dave Glatt, who had been chief of the Environmental Health Section since 2002, was appointed DEQ director and will serve on the Governor’s cabinet. Glatt has been attending cabinet meetings at the governor’s invitation since early in the administration, as Burgum recognized the high importance of environmental health in North Dakota.
“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve done in the past – common-sense environmental protections for the citizens of this state, using science and the law and great professionals to make sure this happens moving forward,” Glatt said during a press conference this morning with Burgum at a DEQ training facility in Bismarck.
Burgum expressed his gratitude for Glatt and State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte, who leads the Department of Health, and their team members for ensuring a smooth transition to the DEQ, as well as the Legislature for approving the new agency.
The DEQ has about 160 full-time team members in five divisions: Air Quality, Chemistry, Municipal Facilities, Waste Management and Water Quality. These team members include engineers, scientists, chemists, microbiologists, legal personnel and administrative support staff.
Burgum noted the DEQ was initially created without additional staff or budget dollars to fulfill the core functions performed by the Environmental Health Division. Six team members were recently added to the agency after the Legislature approved the transfer of two programs – the Boiler Inspection program and the Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Fund – from the state Insurance Department to the DEQ.
As recommended in the governor’s 2019-21 budget and approved by the Legislature, an additional 10 employees will be added to the DEQ over the next two years for the agency to achieve primacy over a federal air quality program related to energy development.
The DEQ will be overseen by a new 13-member Environmental Review Advisory Board, formed through the consolidation of the existing Air Quality Advisory Board and the Water Pollution Control Board. The new board will consist of the state engineer, state geologist, director of the Game & Fish Department and 10 members appointed by the governor. The 10 appointed members will be representatives of crop agriculture, the livestock industry, agronomy/soil sciences, the energy industry and local government. Individuals interested in serving on the board may contact DEQ through its new, more user-friendly website.