Knowles backs drive for more state regulatory power

Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) Chairman and Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles on Monday backed the drive of US Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire to give states more regulatory power when it comes to environmental policy. Knowles also commended US Sen. Max Baucus from Montana for raising awareness regarding federal oversight.

Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) Chairman and Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles on Monday backed the drive of US Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire to give states more regulatory power when it comes to environmental policy. Knowles also commended US Sen. Max Baucus from Montana for raising awareness regarding federal oversight.

Smith, who chairs the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, and Baucus, the committee's ranking minority member, both spoke at a May 2 hearing on state environmental programs. The meeting was a second in a series planned on the US Environmental Protection Agency's fiscal year 2001 budget.

Smith said he believes that states hold the key to successfully solving the next century's environmental issues, and that providing states flexibility to identify their own priorities and develop their own programs is essential to improving environmental protection.

"Give states the flexibility, responsibility, and federal funding where needed, but let them do the job of protecting the environment," Smith added.

Baucus said during that meeting that federal lawmakers don't want EPA to micromanage, and they want to emphasize real environmental performance rather than "bean counting." While he said he was prepared to explore reforms in the federal-state relationship, he still advocates care. "The current system of national environmental laws has been, for all its imperfections, a great success," Baucus said.

Changes should not be made without considering appropriate criteria for states' roles in reforms to the Endangered Species Act and the remediation waste program; the appropriate level of federal oversight; and what increases in resources are needed, he said.

"It is encouraging that Sen. Smith and Sen. Baucus recognize successful environmental policy is not a 'one-size-fits-all' set of guidelines," Knowles said. He also encouraged them to compare the environmental protection successes of state governments and the EPA.

"State regulators have successfully shown they can identify their own environmental issues and have developed creative solutions to tackle those problems," Knowles said.

The IOGCC represents the governors of 30 oil and natural gas producing states. It favors state instead of federal regulation of oil and gas production and environmental protection.

More in Government