April 1 , 2002
EPA director steps down, and tells you why.
March 3, 2002
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 12 years of service, the last five as the Director of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement. I am grateful for the opportunities. ...
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 nine 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 out 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. ...
Fifteen months ago, it looked as if our lawsuits were going to shrink these dismal statistics, when EPA publicly announced agreements with Cinergy and Vepco to reduce SO x and NO x emissions by a combined 750,000 tons a year. Settlements already lodged with two other companies -- TECO and PSE&G -- will eventually take another quarter million tons of NO x and So x out of the air annually. If we get similar results from the nine 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 to 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 [employee] positions below the 2001 level. ...
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