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EPA enforcement office to be run in interests of fossil fuel lobby?

DONALD TRUMP’S PICK FOR EPA ENFORCEMENT OFFICE WAS A LOBBYIST FOR SUPERFUND POLLUTERS  Sharon Lerner  May 24 2017,RESIDENTS OF HOOSICK FALLS, New York, recently took comfort in EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcements that the agency will be prioritizing the Superfund program. This small village northeast of Albany is one of eight sites the EPA last year proposed adding to the National Priorities List, as the list of polluted sites covered by the Superfund is known, because the community’s drinking water had elevated levels of PFOA, which has been associated with kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and thyroid disease, among other health problems.

Since the contamination was discovered in 2014, “there’s been a lot of fear,” said Rob Allen, the mayor of Hoosick Falls. Testing has shown many people in Hoosick Falls, including Allen’s four children, have elevated levels of PFOA in their blood. Allen and others in the town are still awaiting the official Superfund designation, which they hope will help speed the process of cleaning up the pollution and securing a new water source. “We need all the help we can get,” he explained.

Since 1980, Superfund has been the federal government’s answer to the worst cases of toxic pollution. The program assesses giant environmental messes, ranks them according to the hazard they pose to the environment or human health, and if they’re dangerous enough, adds them to the list and arranges to clean them up. At its best, Superfund removes environmental pollution so sites can be used again and measurably alleviates health dangers. According to one 2011 study published in the American Economic Review, babies living near Superfund sites that had yet to be remediated had a 20 to 25 percent increased rate of birth defects. After the cleanups, the rates of birth defects dropped.

But Superfund’s progress has slowed to a near halt in recent years, in part due to a lack of funding. A tax on polluting industries originally paid into a fund for the cleanups (hence the name Superfund) expired in 1995, leaving regular taxpayers to pick up the tab when the government can’t identify a polluter — or when a polluter doesn’t have enough money to pay.

Since then, as fewer cleanups have been completed, the number of people exposed to dangerous pollution has climbed. In 2010, there were 75 Superfund sites where the government had yet to bring toxic exposure to humans under control. By last year, that number was up to 121, according to the most recent EPA data.

Pruitt announced his plans to emphasize Superfund on a visit to a lead-contaminated public housing site in Indiana in April. On May 22, he reiterated his commitment to the program by announcing a new Superfund Task Force, which will “provide recommendations on how the EPA can streamline and improve the Superfund program.” In an accompanying memo, the EPA administrator once again promised to restore Superfund and the EPA’s land and water cleanup efforts “to their rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.”

But Pruitt’s pledges to protect human health and the environment by focusing on Superfund are belied by his own priorities and personnel choices for the program…..Albert Kelly, whom Pruitt announced May 22 as his choice to chair the Superfund Task Force, is an Oklahoma banker who has no prior experience with the program or with environmental issues at all, according to his résumé. Kelly, who has donated twice to Pruitt’s campaigns in Oklahoma, has spent the past 33 years working at Spiritbank, which is headquartered in Tulsa, and most recently served as its chairman. The “core competencies” listed on his résumé, which The Intercept obtained by FOIA, include motivational speaking, business development, and “political activity.”

Meanwhile, Susan Bodine, whom Trump nominated on May 12 to be assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, does have plenty of experience with environmental issues — though most of it representing polluting industries. According to her LinkedIn account, from 2009 until 2015, Bodine was a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, the same firm that is representing FRRC, the group of industries directly affected by EPA cleanup rules. While at Barnes & Thornburg, Bodine represented the American Forest and Paper Association from 2011 to 2014. Member companies in that industry group have hundreds of EPA enforcement actions against them, including violations of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

Bodine’s close ties to these companies make her a poor choice to lead the enforcement office, according to Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “She is the classic revolving door appointment,” said O’Donnell.“The office of enforcement is responsible for everything — clean air, clean water, toxic waste — the core of our environmental protections. Companies will cut corners if they think they won’t get caught.” Bodine’s nomination comes while the Trump administration is blocking efforts to disclose waivers granted to former lobbyists working in federal agencies and the White House.

Because the enforcement office handles negotiations between the companies responsible for the pollution and the EPA, Bodine would be in a position to decide how extensive some cleanups are — and how much polluters have to spend cleaning them.

Bodine’s past lobbying could also compromise her role with the Superfund program. Seven of the companies that belong to the American Forest and Paper Association are named as responsible parties in dozens of Superfund sites, according to the EPA website. International Paper, one member of the group Bodine represented — whose CEO met with Pruitt last week to discuss jobs, according to a tweet from Pruitt — is a responsible party in 12 Superfund sites


May 27, 2017 - Posted by | climate change, environment, politics, USA

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