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DEQ’s Budget Priorities Reflect Our Values

By Scott Baird

The 2017 Utah Legislature kicked off its 45-day session last week, marking the start of an exciting and occasionally hectic time for all of us at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Although we are neutral players in the legislative process, our directors and scientists are available 24/7 to answer questions, provide credible, objective scientific information, and explain the impacts that proposed legislation could have on Utah’s environment.

DEQ’s mission to safeguard and improve Utah’s air, land, and water through balanced regulation is supported by four core values that define who we are and guide our decisions, actions, and funding priorities:

  • Exceptional Service
  • Commitment to Employees
  • Credibility and Trust
  • Continuous Improvement

Let’s take a quick look at the funding priorities for DEQ in Governor Gary Herbert’s proposed budget to see how these “building blocks” support and reinforce our mission and core values.

Monitoring Equipment

Values: Exceptional Service, Credibility and Trust

The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) requested $1.3 million in one-time funding and $150,000 in ongoing funding to replace monitoring equipment past its useful life and expand the monitoring network to accommodate population growth in Iron County. New monitoring equipment will provide accurate and reliable air-quality data to help us make regulatory decisions based on sound science and provide the public with real-time information on current air-quality conditions.

Leak Detection and Repair in the Uinta Basin

Values: Exceptional Service, Continuous Improvement

DAQ requested $250,000 in one-time funding to continue our partnership with the Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center and Tri-County Health Department for leak detection and repair at oil and gas facilities in the Uinta Basin. This funding helps oil and gas companies detect invisible volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions leaking from storage tanks. The project benefits the public by reducing emissions that contribute to air pollution and benefits oil and gas operators by reducing the amount of salable product they lose through leaks. DAQ’s use of infrared cameras has improved the division’s ability to collect information on Basin emissions and boosted the industry’s use of this valuable leak-detection technology.

Water Quality: Harmful Algal Bloom Fund

Values: Exceptional Service, Credibility and Trust

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) requested $123,000 in one-time funding to help the division respond to harmful algal blooms (HABs). These blooms pose a health risk to the public and produce a range of adverse economic and ecological impacts to Utah’s waterways. The funding will ensure that DWQ can respond quickly when HABs occur and provide accurate sampling data to local health departments, municipalities, agriculture, and the public.

Water-Use Study

Values: Exceptional Service, Credibility and Trust, Continuous Improvement

The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) requested $4.5 million in one-time funding to purchase advanced metering equipment to gather accurate and reliable water-use data. This information will help DDW establish appropriate water-source capacity standards based on “peak day” demands. Advanced metering equipment, unlike the current “basic” equipment, can record and report “peak day” water use. This information helps DDW and water providers ensure that residents have access to adequate water every day throughout the day.

Spill Coordinator

Values: Exceptional Service, Credibility and Trust, Continuous Improvement

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) requested $120,900 in ongoing funding to respond effectively to spills into Utah waterways. Spills are on the rise across the state, and the environmental and economic damage can be significant. Prior to the July 2016 hire of a dedicated Spill Coordinator, spill-response tasks were divided among six DWQ employees. This division of labor was inefficient and time-consuming. Response time and incident close-out has improved dramatically since the new coordinator came on board. Ongoing funding of this position will ensure that DWQ can maintain its improved spills response.

These budget requests provide our employees with the resources and support to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.  Cumulatively, they demonstrate our commitment to our core values, specifically identifying ways that we can better serve our customers with reliable information, while continually finding new and innovative ways to accomplish our mission and support our work on behalf of the people of Utah.

Our mission is to safeguard the health and well-being of every Utah resident by protecting and improving our state’s air, land, and water. It’s a mission that, along with our values, we take seriously. We appreciate the opportunity each year to support that mission by participating in the legislative process.

Want to learn more about the 2017 legislative session? Visit the Utah Legislature’s website  to find bills, listen to live and archived  broadcasts of committee meetings, or check out the calendar of scheduled hearings and floor votes. DEQ keeps a running tally of environmental legislation throughout the session on our legislative webpage. You can also create your own personalized list using the legislative bill tracker.

As the Deputy Director over Policy, Planning, and Operational Improvement, I enjoy working with legislators, stakeholders, and our employees in finding ways to improve how we do our work. Prior to joining DEQ, I worked in the Governor’s Offices in Utah and Washington and with Deloitte Consulting in D.C., where I helped state and federal agencies identify and implement opportunities to improve. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree at Brigham Young University and my Masters in Public Administration (MPA) and JD degrees from Syracuse University. I LOVE to get outdoors and enjoy SKIING, running, hiking, backpacking, camping, working in the yard, fixing up our broken-down house, and anything else I can convince my wife and four daughters to do with me … oh yeah, and I really like ice cream!