Environmental Enforcement: Who Should Have the Job?

August 29, 2001

Get ready for a battle over who gets to play "pollution cop" -- and watch for schizophrenia within EPA about whether the agency should keep the job.

study published Aug. 22, 2001 by EPA's Office of Inspector General says that CA and other states are not doing a good job of monitoring and punishing water polluters. Currently 44 states can issue, monitor, and enforce permits under the Clean Water Act's Natl. Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. This study examined NPDES enforcement in CA, NC, and UT; as well as state-performed audits of CWA enforcement in AR, CO, LA, OR, and MD. EPA press: Eileen McMahon, 202-260-0401.

However, EPA Administrator Whitman is attempting to turn more environmental enforcement over to the states. Her fiscal 2002 budget request called for eliminating 270 enforcement positions at the agency. Instead, EPA proposes to give states $25 million in grants for enforcement activities. EPA Press: Dave Deegan, 202-564-7839.

The General Accounting Office doesn't like Whitman's idea. In an Aug. 17, 2001, report, GAO pointed out that EPA currently allocates its regional enforcement staff based on outdated info. GAO recommended that EPA reconsider its proposed enforcement cuts based on accurate workforce planning info.

MEANWHILE: Senate Democrats are blocking the Bush Admin.'s controversial nomination of Donald Schregardus as EPA's enforcement chief. In his former post as OH's top environmental enforcement officer, Schregardus strenuously opposed lawsuits filed against polluting power plants in the Midwest by the Clinton Admin. to enforce the Clean Air Act. Two US Senators are holding his nomination hostage through parliamentary procedures until the Bush Admin. decides whether it will pursue those lawsuits. NYT articles: Aug. 21, 2001 and Aug. 20, 2001.

EPA is still trying to decide whether it will back away from those lawsuits. Watch for the agency's forthcoming recommendations for modifying or scrapping New Source Review -- which EPA now says it plans to deliver "sometime in September 2001." (They missed their original Aug. 17, 2001 deadline. See Tipsheet, Aug. 15, 2001). This report should significantly influence the fate of the Midwestern lawsuits -- and Schregardus' future.