Members of the Environmental Protection Commission are asking legislators to change voting rules so vacancies on the commission won’t hamper their ability make rulings. Two vacancies on the commission became an issue in May when the E.P.C. voted four-to-three to deny a construction permit for a large scale farm in Greene County.
Commission vice chair Charlotte Hubbell says the permit ended up being granted because the commission technically needed five votes against to deny the permit. "The environment definitely lost and that’s when we decided to address the rule change so this wouldn’t happen again, " Hubbell says. The rule change would require only a majority vote of current members to make a ruling.
Commission member Susan Heathcote says the current rule leaves open a lot of questions. "When we vote four to three to deny the permit and then that doesn’t happen the public kind of wonders is that fair, and we have no control over that," Heathcote says. Some lawmakers say they’re worried changing the rule would east he pressure on the governor to fill vacancies on the commission.
But Hubbell says leaving the rule as it is prevents them from doing their job of protecting the environment. Hubbell says most of the votes are unanimous or one objection. But she says on the five percent where they do have disagreements on the board, it should be a majority vote rules.
Hubbell admits the E.P.C. is a hard commission to serve on as a lot of the issues are complex and controversial, and finding members is not easy. Members of a legislative review committee says they’ll likely approve the change after a public hearing on the issue. Governor Culver Tuesday appointed a ninth member to serve on the commission.