The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality says the state legislature has a choice: Set aside $1.5 million to comply with new federal clean water regulations, or turn over control of the state’s drinking water to Washington, D.C.
So far, the agency hasn’t had any luck.
This year could be different. A spokesman for the governor says she now supports new DEQ funds.
“The governor plans to include $1.5 million in her executive budget — which will be released at the State of the State address next month — to address this issue,” press secretary Aaron Cooper says in an email to StateImpact.
DEQ Water Quality Division Director Shellie Chard-McClary says the 2013 legislative session is Oklahoma’s last chance to avoid an EPA takeover of its drinking water standards, and the governor’s support might be the boost the agency needs.
“This is the first year that we can recall that the governor has specifically including the public water supply funding in her budget,” she says.
Of course, inclusion of the money in the governor’s budget is no guarantee the lawmakers will approve. DEQ needs a total of $2 million to fully comply with the EPA regulations. It plans to raise the $500,000 difference through fee increases on public water systems throughout the state.
Those fees will also require legislative approval.