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GLIN==> EPA Enforcer Resigns in Protest
- Subject: GLIN==> EPA Enforcer Resigns in Protest
- From: "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 13:23:42 -0500
- Delivered-To: email@example.com
- Delivered-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- List-Name: GLIN-Announce
EPA National Enforcer Resigns in Protest
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
Dear Ms. Whitman:
I resign today from the Environmental Protection Agency after
twelve years of service, the last five as Director of the Office of
Regulatory Enforcement. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been
given, and leave with a deep admiration for the men and women of EPA who
dedicate their lives to protecting the environment and the public
health. Their faith in the Agency’s mission is an inspiring example to
those who still believe that government should stand for the public interest.
But I cannot leave without sharing my frustration about the fate
of our enforcement actions against power companies that have violated the
Clean Air Act. Between November of 1999 and December of 2000, EPA filed
lawsuits against 9 power companies for expanding their plants, without
obtaining New Source Review permits and the up to date pollution controls
required by law. The companies named in our lawsuits emit an incredible
5.0 million tons of sulfur dioxide every year (a quarter of the emissions
in the entire country) as well as 2 million tons of nitrogen oxide.
As the scale of pollution from these coal-fired smokestacks is
immense, so is the damage to public health. Data supplied to the Senate
Environment Committee by EPA last year estimate the annual health bill from
7 million tons of SO2 and NO2: more than 10,800 premature deaths; at least
5,400 incidents of chronic bronchitis; more than 5,100 hospital emergency
visits; and over 1.5 million lost work days. Add to that severe damage to
our natural resources, as acid rain attacks soils and plants, and deposits
nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay and other critical bodies of water.
Fifteen months ago, it looked as though our lawsuits were going to
shrink these dismal statistics, when EPA publicly announced agreements with
Cinergy and Vepco to reduce Sox and Nox emissions by a combined 750,000
tons per year. Settlements already lodged with two other companies – TECO
and PSE&G – will eventually take another quarter million tons of Nox and
Sox out of the air annually. If we get similar results from the 9
companies with filed complaints, we are on track to reduce both pollutants
by a combined 4.8 million tons per year. And that does not count the
hundreds of thousands of additional tons that can be obtained from other
companies with whom we have been negotiating.
Yet today, we seem about the snatch defeat from the jaws of
victory. We are in the 9th month of a “90 day review” to reexamine the
law, and fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules
we are trying to enforce. It is hard to know which is worse, the endless
delay or the repeated leaks by energy industry lobbyists of draft rule
changes that would undermine lawsuits already filed. At their heart, these
proposals would turn narrow exemptions into larger loopholes that would
allow old “grandfathered” plants to be continually rebuilt (and emissions
to increase) without modern pollution controls.
Our negotiating position is weakened further by the
Administration’s budget proposal to cut the civil enforcement program by
more than 200 staff positions below the 2001 level. Already, we are unable
to fill key staff positions, not only in air enforcement, but in other
critical programs, and the proposed budget cuts would leave us desperately
short of the resources needed to deal with the large, sophisticated
corporate defendants we face. And it is completely unrealistic to expect
underfunded state environmental programs, facing their own budget cuts, to
take up the slack.
It is no longer possible to pretend that the ongoing debate with
the White House and Department of Energy is not effecting our ability to
negotiate settlements. Cinergy and Vepco have refused to sign the consent
decrees they agreed to 15 months ago, hedging their bets while waiting for
the Administration’s Clean Air Act reform proposals. Other companies with
whom we were close to settlement have walked away from the table. The
momentum we obtained with agreements announced earlier has stopped, and we
have filed no new lawsuits against utility companies since this
Administration took office. We obviously cannot settle cases with
defendants who think we are still rewriting the law.
The arguments against sustaining our enforcement actions don’t
hold up to scrutiny.
Were the complaints filed by the U.S. government based on
conflicting or changing interpretations? The Justice Department doesn’t
think so. Its review of our enforcement actions found EPA’s interpretation
of the law to be reasonable and consistent. While the Justice Department
has gamely insisted it will continue to prosecute existing cases, the
confusion over where EPA is going with New Source Review has made
settlement almost impossible, and protracted litigation inevitable.
What about the energy crisis? It stubbornly refuses to
materialize, as experts predict a glut of power plants in some areas of the
U.S. In any case, our settlements are flexible enough to provide for
cleaner air while protecting consumers from rate shock.
The relative costs and benefits? EPA’s regulatory impact
analyses, reviewed by OMB, quantify health and environmental benefits of
$7,300 per ton of SO2 reduced at a cost of less than $1,000 per ton. These
cases should be supported by anyone who thinks cost-benefit analysis is a
serious tool for decision-making, not a political game.
Is the law too complicated to understand? Most of the projects
our cases targeted involved big expansion projects that pushed emission
increases many times over the limits allowed by law.
Should we try to fix the problem by passing a new law? Assuming
the Administration’s bill survives a legislative odyssey in today’s evenly
divided Congress, it will send us right back where we started with new
rules to write, which will then be delayed by industry challenges, and with
fewer emissions reductions than we can get by enforcing today’s law.
I believe you share the concerns I have expressed, and wish you
well in your efforts to persuade the Administration to put our enforcement
actions back on course. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican and our greatest
environmental President, said, “Compliance with the law is demanded as a
right, not asked as a favor.” By showing that powerful utility interests
are not exempt from that principle, you will prove to EPA’s staff that
their faith in the Agency’s mission is not in vain. And you will leave the
American public with an environmental victory that will be felt for
generations to come.
Eric V. Schaeffer, Director
Office of Regulatory
Alex J. Sagady & Associates http://my.voyager.net/~ajs/sagady.pdf
Environmental Enforcement, Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste/Community Environmental Protection
PO Box 39, East Lansing, MI 48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); email@example.com
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