AIR POLLUTION:

Officials from 17 states launch splinter group of regulatory agencies

Representatives from 17 states today joined an alternative association for local and state air pollution control agencies.

The Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies, or AAPCA, plans to be fully operational by April, its interim director, Karen Riggs, told reporters on a conference call.

Riggs, of Battelle, a nonprofit charitable trust that will provide the group with technical assistance, emphasized that the goal of AAPCA is to provide a technical forum and "promote efficient and effective programs to implement the Clean Air Act."

Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally laid the groundwork for the organization last year, largely out of frustration with the 30-year-old National Association of Clean Air Agencies, or NACAA.

NACAA was inappropriately lobbying U.S. EPA and Congress, Nally has said, espousing positions that did not represent the consensus of its members. Some critics have charged that AAPCA was born out of Nally's personal vendetta against NACAA's executive director, Bill Becker (Greenwire, Nov. 5, 2012).

Nally did not participate in today's call. Other state officials supported his viewpoint, however.

Tom Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Nally's former boss, questioned NACAA's rationale for policy positions.

"It's been frustrating to read ... about an organization that said they were representing us and taking policy positions that we think are inconsistent with the science, and certainly with the positions of Indiana," Easterly said.

AAPCA, he added in what appeared to be a thinly veiled swipe at Becker, will represent "our policy and not the staff's policy."

Carlos Rubinstein of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality added that NACAA's structure "is not one that respects differing opinions."

Rubinstein and Easterly also indicated that they were displeased with NACAA's positions on regulating greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its pressing House Republicans against re-examining the Clean Air Act.

NACAA has previously defended itself, arguing that it curtailed any activities that could be construed as lobbying once Nally and others raised concerns.

Today, however, Becker embraced AAPCA's formation.

"We support any organization of governmental officials, like ours, whose mission is to provide clean air for citizens throughout the country," Becker told Greenwire. "We wish them well."

The states joining AAPCA: Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Of those, six have formally left NACAA: Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas.

NACAA represents air agencies in 43 states and 116 local air agencies.

It remains unclear how much is costs to join AAPCA and what the fee structure will be. The group has not yet obtained a federal grant, representatives said, and it has yet to approach local air agencies about membership. It is currently funded by individual contributions.

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