During a public hearing last Friday, there was a discussion not only as to whether to adopt a new set of regulations but also whether or not they’re already in effect.
Bill 149 is an act to adopt the rules and regulations for underground storage tanks as transmitted by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency.
However, Guam EPA said that the rules are already being enforced.
The storage tank regulations were transmitted to the previous legislature.
However, the agency was required to resubmit its rules to the current legislature.
Conchita Taitano, Guam EPA’s Air and Land Administrator, said that since the previous legislature didn’t act upon the regulations after they were submitted, they went into effect by default.
And they’re concerned that any changes to the regulations could undermine enforcement efforts that are currently underway.
“Guam EPA has consulted Assistant Attorney General Christian Finney from the Office of the Attorney General of Guam. We’ve consulted the governor’s legal counsel, Sophia Diaz. And we have consulted the Guam Compiler of Laws, Gerry Cepeda. And based on these consultations, it is the agency’s position that the UST regulations were properly adopted pursuant to law and that the agency has already begun enforcement actions. It is also our understanding through consultation with the compiler’s office, that they intend to already include them in the upcoming updates to the GARR,” Taitano said.
Senator Sabina Perez, the committee chairperson who presided over the hearing, said that although the rules had been submitted to the legislature, they hadn’t been put into bill form because there was insufficient time for them to lapse into law and that one legislature can’t bind another.
She said that the issue had already been discussed with Guam EPA’s administrator.
“If I may, I have been in discussions with the administrator, and I did explain the position. And I don’t want to go into the full out of it, but there is a difference of opinion, and we’re going this route just to formalize and ensure that the process…because the legislature has its own process…and really the intention is to ensure that it’s formalized through the process that the legislature endorses,” Perez said.
Guam EPA administrator Walter Leon Guerrero said that although he believes the regulations are now in effect, the agency is simply responding to the legislature’s authority to change rules and regulations as they see fit.
“We are just going through, following up with the process, of having this regulation be heard again. But based on legal counsel, and advice, we believe that since December, the regulations are in place,” Leon Guerrero said.
He added: “Going through this process, again, is something that we, because it was put on the floor, we will do. But we are asking, since it was passed, and you do have full authority to change any part of the regulations, that you don’t, because it’s been vetted, it’s been through public comment, again, even the commercial industrial entities have not produced or provided any significant comments.”