|The resignation letter
below was written in February 2002 by
Eric Schaeffer, the EPA's Director of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement.
It documents his frustration with the Bush White House's determination to,
clean air rules the EPA is trying to enforce." In many respects
it is a plea for help. See: MSNBC article,
Resignation Letter." Bold and underline are my own. See also, "Clearing
the Air: "Why I Quit Bush's EPA by Eric Schaeffer, Washington Monthly
August 1, 2002."
Clean Air Act;"
Official’s Resignation Signals Deeper Problems with Administration’s
Enforcement of Environmental Laws" and
Documents Reveal Plan to Weaken Air Quality Protections. Also:
Bush Administration Accused of Suppressing, Distorting Science,
Other Environmental Travesties from the Bush
3/16/2005: Senate Votes to Open Alaskan Oil Drilling
"WASHINGTON - Amid the backdrop of soaring oil and
gasoline prices, a sharply divided Senate on Wednesday voted to open the
ecologically rich Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, delivering a major
energy policy win for President Bush. The Senate, by a 51-49 vote, rejected
an attempt by Democrats and GOP moderates to remove a refuge drilling
provision from next year's budget, preventing opponents from using a
filibuster - a tactic that has blocked repeated past attempts to open the
Alaska refuge to oil companies."- H Josef Hebert, Associated Press.
Update, 12/23/2004: New Rules Issued for National Forests: Some
Environmental Protections Eased
The Bush administration issued comprehensive new rules yesterday for
managing the national forests, jettisoning some environmental protections
that date to Ronald Reagan's administration and putting in place the biggest
change in forest-use policies in nearly three decades.
11/6/2003: Going Backwards: EPA Drops Its Cases Against Dozens of Alleged
Polluters by Elizabeth Shogren
"The Bush administration has dropped enforcement actions against dozens of
coal-fired power plants that were under investigation for violating the
Clean Air Act and allegedly spewing thousands of tons of illegal pollution
into the air, EPA officials said Wednesday."
9/21/03: Bush Covers Up Climate Research: White House officials play down
its own scientists' evidence of global warming
"White House officials have undermined their own government scientists'
research into climate change to play down the impact of global warming, an
investigation by The Observer can reveal."
"The disclosure will anger environment campaigners who claim that efforts to
cut greenhouse gas emissions are being sabotaged because of President George
W. Bush's links to the oil industry."
Update 9/15/03: EPA sued over kids and pesticides: Coalition
charges agency failed to protect children
"NEW YORK, Sept. 15 — The Environmental Protection Agency was sued by four
states and a coalition of conservation, public health and farmworker groups
Monday for failing to protect children from unsafe levels of pesticide
residue found in food. The plaintiffs, who filed two separate cases in
Manhattan federal court, seek court orders forcing the EPA to comply with a
1996 law requiring that the agency set pesticide residue standards 10 times
stricter than those considered acceptable for adults.
"ONE OF THE suits was brought by the attorneys
general of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The
other case was brought by an 11-member group that includes the
Natural Resources Defense Council,
Pesticide Action Network North America,
the Breast Cancer Fund,
and the Physicians for Social
-Reuters, 9/15/03 from MSNBC
8/29/03, Knight Ridder News Service, Bush Administration: Carbon Dioxide Not
a Pollutant," by Seth Borenstein
EPA lifts ban on selling PCB sites, by Peter
Eisler, USA Today
the Boston Globe, "Bush Fries Climate Change," by Derrick Z. Jackson
3/8/03: Oil Industry Granted Clean-Water Waiver by Elizabeth Shogren,
Los Angeles Times
Update: 1/1/03: New Pollution Standards Prompt Suit
9 States Challenge U.S. Decision to Relax Rules
"Nine northeastern states ranging from Maine to Maryland
filed suit yesterday challenging the Bush administration's decision to relax
national industrial pollution restrictions for the first time since
enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970."- Eric Pianin, Washington Post.
Update: 12/16/02: Bush to California: Choke on this
The White House has joined with the oil and auto industries to undermine the
state's rigorous environmental regulations.
12/29/02: White House Budget Office Thwarts EPA Warning on Asbestos-Laced
"The Environmental Protection Agency was on the
verge of warning millions of Americans that their attics and walls
might contain asbestos-contaminated insulation. But, at the last
minute, the White House intervened, and the warning has never been
The agency's refusal to share its knowledge of what is believed to be
a widespread health risk has been criticized by a former EPA
administrator under two Republican presidents, a Democratic U.S.
senator and physicians and scientists who have treated victims of the
Schneider, St Louis Post-Dispatch
Update: 11/22/02: EPA Eases Clean Air Requirements on Power Plants
"The Bush administration on Friday eased clean air rules to allow utilities,
refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install expensive new
anti-pollution equipment when they modernize their plants.
The long-awaited regulation issued by the Environmental Protection agency
was immediately attacked by environmentalists, state air quality regulators
and attorneys general in several Northeast state who promised a lawsuit to
try to reverse the action."
"...Vickie Patton, an attorney with
Environmental Defense, said the changes amount to "a sweeping and
unprecedented erosion of state and local power to protect the public health
from air pollution" by thousands of power plants, oil refineries and
"They're going to do everything they can not only to
roll these rules back at the federal level but to force states to dismantle
clean air programs that have been in place for years," she said."
John Heilprin, Washington Post, 11/22/02; See also:
Bush Weakens Clean Air Act: Rollback Will
Increase Air Pollution, Threaten Public Health, NRDC.
Update: 4/5/02, Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge
While not directly related to air quality, the Interior Department's
hasty effort to mitigate the conclusions of a US Geological Survey
study outlining the adverse effects on caribou of drilling in the Artic
National Wildlife Refuge, further demonstrates this Administration's weak
support for environmental causes. See The NRDC, 4/5/02
" Bush's Call
for New Study Is Politically Motivated, Lieberman Says."
Update: 614/02, EPA Proposes To Ease Rules On Clean Air
"The Bush administration announced yesterday a major
relaxation of clean air enforcement rules governing older coal-fired power
plants and refineries that would effectively preclude future government
legal action in all but the most flagrant cases of pollution."-
Eric Pianin, Washington Post, 6/14/02
"EPA Mulls New Water Cleanup Rule," Michael Grunwald, Washington Post,
"The Bush administration is considering a plan to reduce federal oversight
of a key Clean Water Act anti-pollution program and instead "trust states"
to clean up more than 20,000 dirty rivers, lakes and estuaries, internal
Environmental Protection Agency documents show."
David Cave, Salon, 7/31/02:
"On June 24, the EPA told Congress that it planned to cut funding for 33
Superfund sites. A handful of those properties received last-minute funding
July 22, but Atlas Tack, its cleanup once scheduled to start in April, is
currently destined to remain unfunded and untouched.
"...Now that the EPA pressure is off, however, it is unlikely that the
company will foot the bill for cleanup simply because it is the right thing
"...The lesson here is that if a company delays long
enough, it will get a break from the government. There is also an implied
promise of laxity for future polluters. Why should a company spend money on
clean and sustainable production if it is cheap to pollute for a profit?
'Asian Brown Cloud' poses global threat
"In the biggest-ever study of the phenomenon, 200
scientists warned that the cloud, estimated to be two miles (three
kilometers) thick, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths
a year from respiratory disease."-
CNN News 8/12/2002
National Environment Trust's
latest study shows that children in California will exceed
the acceptable exposure to dangerous cancer-causing pollutants well
before their first birthday- 9/16/02,
National Environment Trust Web
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 B TECO and PSE&G
B 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
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 under funded 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 Enforcement