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[greenyes] Bush EPA Appointments

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Get more info on the appointees from Grist Magazine.


August 9, 2005 | Back Issues

Environmentalists Concerned About New EPA

Reshuffling and resignations at the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) have generated a flurry of nominees that for the
most part have avoided media attention. The changes are causing concern
among environmental and watchdog organizations.

The second-in-command position at EPA was vacated
when Stephen Johnson was promoted to EPA Administrator. Late last month the
Senate confirmed Marcus Peacock as the new deputy administrator. Peacock
will be moving over from the White House Office of Management and Budget,
where he oversaw its environmental, energy, and science programs.

Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch,
describes Peacock as a conservative ideologue "with a decidedly
anti-environmental regulatory track record." In the first days of the Bush
administration, the White House froze more than a dozen Clinton-era rules
related to environment, health, and safety, including rules on arsenic in
drinking water, snowmobiles in national parks, and protections for roadless
areas of national forests. According to Bass, Peacock was instrumental in
the decision to put a hold on rule-making in these areas, as well as a
steady succession of budget cuts the White House requested for EPA.

The Bush Administration also announced its choice
for the top science position in the Office of Research and Development.
George Gray, currently executive director of Harvard's Center for Risk
Analysis (HCRA), awaits Senate confirmation of his nomination. HRCA has
garnered attention in the past over its conflict of interest policy and more
recently over a review of scientific research concerning the endocrine
disrupting chemical found in plastics, bisphenol-A.

The Center's review, funded by the American Plastics
Council, concluded that bisphenol-A does not cause harm at low doses. A 2005
study released in the science journal Environmental Health Perspectives also
conducted a review of research concerning bisphenol-A and found that over 90
percent of independent studies report harmful effects of low dose exposure
to bisphenol-A, while 100 percent of industry-funded studies report no
significant adverse effects. [1]

Another key vacancy was created with the resignation
of Jeffrey Holmstead, assistant administrator in charge of EPA's Office of
Air and Radiation. In the interim that position will be filled by Bill
Wehrum, a former lobbyist for Latham & Watkins -- a law firm that represents
major business interests.

Wehrum was a lead author of the ill-fated "Clear
Skies" legislation, and played a key role in weakening air pollution
controls for coal-fired power plants. He also assisted in shaping the
Administration's market-based trading program for mercury emissions, which
are now being challenged in federal court.

EPA's enforcement division has a new nominee to fill
the vacancy created by Thomas Skinner, who was acting enforcement chief.
Late last month, the Senate confirmed Granta Nakayama to head the
enforcement office at EPA.

Heading the enforcement office has become unusually
difficult at the EPA. Predecessors, Sylvia Lowrance and J.P. Suarez, both
spoke candidly to the press after leaving the post about the enormous
difficulties of working in the EPA enforcement program under President Bush.
The exodus at the EPA enforcement office began when Eric Schaeffer, then
director of EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement, stepped down in 2002
protesting failures to enforce the Clean Air Act.

In an interview with Grist Magazine, Schaeffer
commented on current working conditions in the enforcement office, "It's a
crap job right now." Schaeffer added, "You have the White House boxing you
in all the time, you have program officers trying to block your cases.
Basically, if you do your job right in this climate, you'll anger a lot of
your superiors. Enforcement is not the place to be right now if you are
going to advance your political career."

Nakayama, similar to other Bush Administration
nominees, also has a history of lobbying for industry interests, including
the snowmobiling industry, during his time as an attorney for the law firm
Kirkland & Ellis.


This story was jointly produced by BushGreenwatch
and Grist Magazine. For more on this story, visit Grist Magazine.


[1] Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2005.


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