Environmental Concerns About Controversial Federal Enforcement Nominee Confirmed
The US Environmental Protection Agency's Region V office today will release its preliminary draft report on the investigation of Ohio's enforcement of federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act. The US EPA's investigation has been the object of heightened public interest because it reflects upon the qualifications of the Bush administration's controversial nominee – Donald Schregardus – to head EPA's national enforcement program. The draft report will be released to the public later today, but a letter accompanying the draft was released to the public late last Friday. According to the letter, Ohio must take steps to avoid withdrawal of authority to administer Clean Air Act programs in the state.
"This program review appears to be a wake-up call for Ohio EPA and bad news for Don Schregardus's bid to be EPA's top enforcement cop," said Maria Weidner of Earthjustice's White House Watch program. "EPA's letter threatens withdrawal of Ohio's clean air programs unless changes are made. As part of its consideration of whether Mr. Schregardus is fit to head EPA's enforcement program, the US Senate should carefully examine this report as well as the public comments on the draft that will be submitted during the 30-day review period."
Schregardus's tenure as director of Ohio EPA (and that of his successor) has been the subject of this federal investigation by EPA known as the Ohio Program Review. The review was initiated after petitions from several Ohio environmental groups submitted information to US EPA documenting the failure of Ohio EPA under Mr. Schregardus to enforce federal environmental standards.
"EPA's letter indicates that the review is not a good report card for Don Schregardus," explained Weidner. "We are concerned that the Bush administration has been trying to sugar-coat the findings of the Ohio Program Review in order to help Schregardus's chances of being confirmed by the Senate, but apparently Ohio's failure to adequately enforce the Clean Air Act was too blatant to overlook."
Donald Schregardus's nomination for Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has drawn fire from national, regional, and Ohio environmental groups, as well as from several US Senators. Concerns have been fueled not only by the EPA's investigation of Ohio's enforcement of federal environmental programs, but also due to several other troubling aspects of Schregardus's track record as director of Ohio EPA, including:
- Schregardus's opposition to every federal initiative to clean up the nation's dirtiest power plants while at Ohio EPA and his role in the agency's decision to disregard a federal mandate that called for the reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions from utilities.
- A ruling by a US administrative law judge that found Schregardus and other Ohio EPA officials guilty of violating the whistleblower provisions of seven federal environmental statutes and of misrepresenting possible threats to human health at contaminated sites in Marion, Ohio.
- During Schregardus's tenure at Ohio EPA, legal actions brought by the agency to force polluters to clean up contaminated sites fell by more than 50 percent.