Bill Description: Senate Bill 1014 would expand the powers held by the director of the Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ.
Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?
Senate Bill 1014 would amend Section 39-105, Idaho Code, which specifies the powers and duties of the director of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The language added by this bill would give this powerful regulatory agency new broad powers to “enter into and make voluntary contracts and agreements with any public agencies, municipal corporations, and private parties for funding or reimbursement of department costs necessary for the state of Idaho to engage in activities related to the protection of human health and the environment.”
It is always problematic when government expands its power, especially when it does so for vague and expansive reasons such as "the protection of human health and the environment."
The bill’s statement of purpose (SOP) offers some reasonable hypotheticals, such as a private entity asking DEQ to “provide technical input, regulatory guidance, or review of complex projects outside of DEQ’s routine work.” Such work could make it easier for the private entity to complete a federally required environmental impact study.
Unfortunately, the broad powers this bill would grant to the department are not limited to the examples in the SOP, and the expanded powers are not limited to private parties. The bill also allows DEQ to make contracts with taxpayer-funded entities such as municipal corporations and public agencies. Allowing DEQ to make deals to receive revenue from taxpayer-funded entities could provide a new avenue for increased spending that wasn’t directly approved by the Legislature.
It is also conceivable that nefarious undertakings done in the name of “protection of human health and the environment” could be surreptitiously funded through this mechanism. Imagine a large tech company offering to work with DEQ to implement an invasive health surveillance program. Rather than seek an appropriation from the legislature, DEQ could enter into a voluntary contract with the company to fund the program.