EPA Abandons Enforcement, Employees Resign in Protest


The extent to which the Bush Admin’s EPA is anti-environmental may be deduced from a splash of recent resignations. While an EPA spokeswoman claimed that the resignations were insignificant because there were only a few of them–

Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the agency, said of the departures, “This is an office of several hundred employees — and to have one political appointee and two career employees leave is not indicative of unrest or departmentwide frustration.”

–look at who they were:

**Rich Bondi, the assistant director of the enforcement division, who said, “The rug was pulled out from under us. You look around and say, `What contribution can I continue to make here?’ and it was limited.”

**JP Suarez, the head of the enforcement division.

**Bruce Buckheit, the head of air enforcement division, after “the E.P.A. announced… that it was going to suspend investigations into utilities after the administration loosened the sections of the Clean Air Act that govern aging coal-burning power plants.”

These latest resignations join previous ones, including:

**”Eric Schaeffer, the former head of civil enforcement, resigned in spring 2002 with a scathing letter criticizing the administration’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act.”

and

**Sylvia K. Lowrance, the acting assistant administrator for enforcement and a career enforcement official, who retired in August 2002.

“‘We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws,’ Ms. Lowrance said.”

The people who are quitting are overwhelmingly from the enforcement division, and three of those key people have openly said it was because of the Bush Admin’s refusal to enforce environmental laws and their willingness to undercut compliance deals that had already been worked out, and worked out over several years of negotiation.

Mr. Buckheit is considered a driving force behind the agency’s pursuit of utilities that started in the Clinton administration.”It is a huge loss for clean air enforcement as Bruce was one of the most energetic and passionate Clean Air lawyers in the country,” said Peter Lehner, the head of environmental litigation for the New York attorney general’s office, which has joined in several of the lawsuits against power plants.

The suits used a once-obscure provision of the Clean Air Act, known as new source review, which says that power plants, refineries and other industrial boilers had to install pollution controls if they modernized in ways that increased emissions generally. But “routine maintenance was exempt.” The power companies protested the suits, saying the Clinton administration was misinterpreting the law.

Nonetheless, Mr. Buckheit had reached agreements with some electric companies, including Virginia Electric Power and Cinergy, by 2000. Many other negotiations stalled, however, after the Bush administration came into office.

…Last summer, Virginia Electric Power, now known as Dominion Power, completed an agreement to install $1.2 billion in pollution controls.

One of the more interesting statements in the article refers to Cheney’s energy committee:

Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force urged the administration to study industry complaints about federal enforcement actions.

It was after that “suggestion” that the EPA changed the rules and began to drop their lawsuits.

In the same vein, David Neiwert at Orcinus notes Rep. Pete McCluskey (one of the last remaining moderate Republicans) has written an op-ed piece on the systematic destruction of the Endangered Species Act by the WH:

The act has been remarkably effective. Peregrine falcons, brown pelicans, American alligators and many other species, once on the verge of disappearing, were aided by the law and now thrive. Still-protected species — black-footed ferrets, California condors and manatees among them — would almost certainly be extinct if not for this law. Just last month, I was privileged to see a pair of young condors circling in the Santa Lucia Mountains below Carmel. Twenty years ago, there were no wild condors in California.Now, however, the administration and its congressional allies are in a pitched battle against the act. The administration has moved to exempt the military from the law.

I once was in the Marine Corps. We do not need to drive species to extinction at Camp Pendleton or Guantanamo Bay or Hunter Liggett to keep our armed forces adequately trained and prepared for combat.

The administration has stopped designating “critical habitat” for listed species except under court order. It has stopped adding to the list of threatened and endangered species unless ordered to do so by a judge. It has moved to exempt the Forest Service from abiding by the law on the pretext of fire prevention. It is working to weaken the requirement that endangered species be protected from pesticides.

And that list barely scratches the surface. The assault on the law is widespread and relentless.

The administration and its comrades in arms argue that the law is ineffective, expensive and in need of drastic overhaul. In truth, they are acting as agents for the timber industry, the mining industry, land developers, big agriculture and other economic interests that sometimes find their profits slightly decreased in the short run by the need to obey this law.

The assault on our environment spear-headed by industries that don’t like to see “their profits slightly decreased in the short run by the need to obey this law” has resulted in a capture of the Bush EPA so complete that they might as well own it.

Somehow I don’t think that protecting the environment is the same thing as protecting an industry’s right to exploit it for their own gain, but maybe I’m wrong.

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