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Brewer selects top Arizona environmental regulator

PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday announced a major appointment, picking a former Bush administration official to become the state’s top environmental regulator.

The move fills a post that has proved sensitive in the past because of the interplay between business and the environment.

Brewer’s office said Ben Grumbles will initially serve as the governor’s environmental adviser while commuting and telecommuting between Virginia and Phoenix. Then, on June 19 he and his family, which includes two school-age children, will relocate to Phoenix. He will become director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality on June 22.

The department is responsible for protecting water and air quality in Arizona, running programs that include auto-emissions testing and permitting of projects that involve emissions into the air and possible impacts on ground water.

Grumbles is a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official, most recently serving as the federal agency’s top water official. He previously served as a congressional aide whose duties included legislation and oversight.

“Mr. Grumbles is an internationally renowned expert in water conservation and water quality and will serve this administration and the citizens of Arizona very well,” Brewer said in her announcement. “In a continued effort to fill my cabinet with the best and brightest, it became imperative that we act immediately in securing Mr. Grumbles. I am thrilled that we were able to do so.”

In 2008, Grumbles balked at any immediate, sweeping upgrade of national water standards. However, he said critics were correct to question whether the nation’s existing regulatory mechanism could handle the complex mixture of contaminants from pharmaceuticals.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has been headed on an interim basis by Patrick Cunningham, who will resume his post as deputy director.

Brewer, a Republican, became governor Jan. 20 when her Democratic predecessor, Janet Napolitano, resigned upon confirmation as U.S. Homeland Security secretary.

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