- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A state environmental board adopted new rules Thursday requiring members to report conflicts of interest after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said South Dakota was among the states not following all requirements of the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Deputy Attorney General Roxanne Giedd drafted the rules for the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment. She said board members already identify and disclose conflicts of interest without specific rules stating they do so, but that “unfortunately, the Clean Air Act is requiring it.”

The Minerals Board enforces rules and issues permits for mineral exploration, hazardous waste and air quality, among other things. The federal Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the board, determined South Dakota and other states weren’t following all the law’s rules as managers of the federal pollution control program in the state.

One of the new rules requires a board member to withdraw from a hearing if closely related by blood or financial ties to someone involved. Another rule requires board members to disclose other relationships that could be considered a conflict.

Some board members worried the second rule was too broad and would cast them as biased when that wasn’t the case. They questioned whether the stocks in their portfolio could be considered a potential conflict.

“It’s really going to be subjective,” Giedd said. “It was really difficult to make this as specific as I could to make sure this functions.”

The board unanimously voted during a public hearing to adopt the rules Thursday, after a method to simplify and merge the two rules failed by a narrow vote. No members of the public testified at the hearing.

Board member and attorney Rex Hagg said the Legislature should make such a rule for all groups like theirs in the state.

“It really should apply to all boards. It’s probably something that’s long overdue,” he said.

But Giedd said the legislative process can be long and unpredictable. She said each separate board in the state has separate rules.

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