The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted today to confirm Donald R. Schregardus of Ohio for the position of assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Four senators voted against Mr. Schregardus's confirmation: Senator Boxer of California, Senator Clinton of New York, Senator Corzine of New Jersey, and Senator Wyden of Oregon. If confirmed by the full Senate, Mr. Schregardus will take charge of the national environmental enforcement program.
"The EPW committee's decision to put Schregardus on the fast track despite the abundance of warning signs was reckless and ill-advised," said Maria Weidner of Earthjustice. "Instead of heeding those signs and asking the obvious questions, they opted to drive blind. It's a sad day for environmental enforcement."
Both national and Ohio environmental organizations raised numerous concerns over Schregardus's nomination, which has been particularly controversial due to questions raised concerning his enforcement record as director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Schregardus's administration at Ohio EPA is currently the subject of a federal investigation by EPA to determine whether to revoke Ohio's authority to implement federal environmental programs for failure to enforce federal environmental laws in the state.
"The investigation into Ohio programs has been ongoing for years and no one has seen any draft findings or recommendations yet -- not the public, not the Senate," stated Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice. "It only makes sense to get the verdict on EPA's assessment of Schregardus's enforcement history at Ohio EPA before giving him the keys to run the national enforcement program."
In addition to the EPA's federal investigation of Ohio programs, environmental groups have taken issue with several other aspects of Schregardus's track record as director of Ohio EPA, including:
- Schregardus's role in Ohio EPA'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 provision of seven federal environmental statutes and of misrepresenting possible threats to human health at a contaminated site 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.