News of the resignation of Eric Schaeffer, director of regulatory enforcement at US EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, reveals ongoing problems with enforcement of environmental laws at EPA and within the Bush administration, said Earthjustice.
"The resignation of Mr. Schaeffer is yet another event that underscores the fact that enforcing the law is the Achilles' heel of the Bush administration's environmental policy," said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice. "This administration has made repeated attempts over the last year to weaken enforcement of our clean water, clean air, and hazardous waste laws. Weakening enforcement of the law means more pollution in our communities and that means greater health risks to people across the country."
Earthjustice cites the following examples of the Bush administration's efforts to undermine environmental enforcement at the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), the office from which Mr. Schaeffer resigned:
· Just two days ago, the administration announced its intent to nominate John Peter Suarez, currently director of New Jersey's agency that oversees gambling laws, as EPA's head of enforcement in OECA, despite the fact that Mr. Suarez appears to have no previous professional experience with environmental laws or programs.
· The Bush administration's first pick to head OECA, Donald Schregardus, withdrew his name from consideration in the face of formidable opposition from the public and Senators because of his record of lax enforcement of environmental laws as director of Ohio EPA.
· The Bush administration's proposed FY 2003 budget would cut 200 full time employees from the federal enforcement staff and would create a $15 million grant program to shift more enforcement authority from the federal government to the states. This is the second year in a row that the Bush administration has tried to cut federal enforcement resources. Last year, Congress soundly rejected the administration's first attempts to cut federal enforcement and create an unauthorized, ill-defined $25 million grant program to the states.
· EPA Administrator Whitman has repeatedly stated her preference for voluntary compliance by industry as the best first approach for dealing with companies that violate clean air, clean water and environmental laws – thereby significantly weakening the deterrence effect of enforcement, said Earthjustice