BOISE -- Idaho will take over the regulation of pollutants dumped into the state's waterways, a process formerly controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appeared at the Idaho Statehouse alongside Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to sign the agreement Tuesday afternoon.
"This truly is at the heart of cooperative federalism," Pruitt said. "Those in Congress who drafted the Clean Water Act, who drafted environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act, is that a one-size-fits-all issue, a one-size-fits-all approach, is not the proper way to address environmental issues."
The state Department of Environmental Quality will take over the regulation of pollutant discharge into Idaho's lakes and rivers starting July 1. DEQ head John Tippets said that the change will not result in Idaho's standards becoming more lax.
"We're required by law to be at least as stringent in our rules and regulations as the federal government is, as the EPA is," he said.
The Idaho Legislature would have to approve any attempts from the DEQ to make Idaho pollutant regulations tougher than those imposed federally. The EPA will still have oversight of the permit program.
Tippets did not give any specific examples of changes the DEQ will make after gaining primacy but said local officials are better prepared to handle the issues within their own state.
"The biggest change that we think Idahoans will see initially is just a cooperative attitude and DEQ employees that are out looking to help them comply with the law and understand, rather than the enforcement approach that is typical of the EPA," he said.
Idaho is currently one of only four states that must deal with the federal government when getting a permit to dump water pollutants into waterways.
Pruitt, who has been under scrutiny amid allegations of misuse of his authority and taxpayer money, left directly after his prepared statements without taking any questions. He did not respond to shouted questions from reporters.
Protesters gathered outside the governor's office, loudly chanting their opposition to Pruitt.
Idaho's chapter of the Sierra Club also announced its opposition to the move in the form of a statement from Chapter Director Zack Waterman.
"It's important to remember today that while corporate polluters are causing harm to the health of Idaho's families and our clean air and water, Scott Pruitt is letting them off the hook while abusing taxpayer dollars and facing numerous corruption scandals," Waterman wrote. "Idaho deserves an EPA administrator who will support our clean energy and outdoor economy, but Scott Pruitt is putting himself and corporate polluters ahead of our health and our wild places."