It seems there was a little budget problem in Idaho, so the state legislature "zero-funded" (translation: killed) the state's Air Bureau as of June 30. There's no reason to worry about air quality in Idaho, however, because the Environmental Protection Agency came galloping to the rescue. EPA announced last week in the Federal Register that would "assume the temporary role of managing the Idaho state air program."

Dick Thiel, EPA's man in the Seattle regional office, said, "Basically we're adopting the Idaho regulations that had been submitted to us and operating a program under those rules." Federal money that had been ticketed for the state is being used, instead, to fund the EPA effort and hire a management consultant.

There is no immediate penalty to the state, Thiel said. But the state is technically not in compliance with the Clean Air Act (due for revision) and thus EPA can limit the growth of smokestacks and other sources of pollution. "To our thinking it's a step backwards to overthrow" the state program "and let the federal government come in," Thiel said. "There's something behind why" Idaho is doing this, Thiel said, "and frankly we aren't really clear on what it is." It's also not clear just where this fits into President Reagan's plans to give programs back to the states.