EPA Regional Chief Resigns After
Over Dow's Dioxin Pollution
STEPHEN POWER & ANA CAMPOY / Wall Street Journal 3may2008
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency's Midwest office in Chicago says she resigned in a dispute with the agency's leadership over enforcement actions involving Dow Chemical Co.
The departure of Mary Gade is the latest in a series of unusually public conflicts between the EPA's chief, Stephen Johnson, and his subordinates, and comes at a time when Mr. Johnson is under criticism from congressional Democrats for some of his decisions.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Gade, a former corporate attorney who advised the Bush presidential campaign in 2000 on environmental matters and who was appointed to her post less than two years ago, said senior agency officials on Thursday told her to quit or be fired.
Ms. Gade linked the agency's action to her office's efforts to press Dow Chemical to clean up a Michigan river system that is near a Dow chemical-manufacturing plant and that is contaminated with dioxin as a result of past waste-disposal practices, emissions and incineration at the plant.
"It's related to the ongoing discussion between me, my region and [EPA] headquarters about Dow," Ms. Gade said. She declined to specify what she and her superiors had disagreed about but added that ordinary citizens "should be concerned" because "this may be some of the worst dioxin contamination" in the U.S.
"It's important we make sure the company steps up to the plate and meets its obligations under the law," Ms. Gade said. "It would be great if I could stay and fight this battle, but it reached the point where I had to resign."
An EPA spokesman confirmed Ms. Gade had been placed on administrative leave and that she has submitted her resignation. He declined to respond to her other comments, or to specify why she had been placed on administrative leave. The EPA's regional administrator in Chicago oversees federal environmental programs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
John Musser, a Dow Chemical spokesman, said the company never asked the EPA to relieve Ms. Gade from her duties. He added that the company found out about her placement on leave from the media. He said the company doesn't know what led the EPA to do that.
Ms. Gade's resignation was reported on the Chicago Tribune's Web site late Thursday.
In January, Ms. Gade's office announced that it had stopped negotiations with Dow Chemical aimed at reaching a settlement over cleanup actions related to dioxin contamination in the Tittabawassee River system. The agency said that "key issues that are paramount for protecting human health and the environment remain unresolved," and quoted Ms. Gade as saying she was "extremely disappointed with" the outcome of the talks. In the interview, she declined to specify what her office and Dow had disagreed about.
Dow's Mr. Musser said that Ms. Gade's office asked Dow "to do things that were not consistent with national guidelines or national policy." He declined to elaborate, saying discussions with the EPA were confidential.
After the negotiations fell through, Dow met with EPA officials in Washington to discuss what the company perceived as unfair treatment by the local office, said Mr. Musser. Ms. Gade was present at the meeting, Mr. Musser added.
Ms. Gade's resignation comes as Mr. Johnson is under fire from congressional Democrats for overruling his staff in disputes affecting major industries.
In December, against the recommendations of many senior EPA staffers, Mr. Johnson denied California permission to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles. Mr. Johnson also has resisted pressure from Democrats and many states to formally declare greenhouse-gas emissions a threat to public welfare — the legal prerequisite to regulating them — despite a tentative conclusion from agency staffers last year that they do.
Because a decision to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles could trigger similar regulations affecting a range of other industries, Mr. Johnson has called for first soliciting public comment on the idea.
source: p.A4 3may2008
Bush Admin Forces Out EPA Regulator
Who Sought Regulation of Dow
Democracy Now! News 2may2008
A top federal environmental regulator says the Bush administration has forced her to step down over her attempts to regulate pollution caused by the industrial giant Dow Chemical. Mary Gade was the Environmental Protection Agency’s top official in the Midwest until she resigned on Thursday. Last year, Gade used emergency powers to force Dow to clean up four areas contaminated with the cancer-causing Dioxin chemical near Dow’s Michigan headquarters. One of the areas had one of the largest amounts of Dioxin ever recorded in the United States. Gade says she resigned after she was stripped of her powers and told to quit or be fired by June 1st. Democratic Congressmember Rahm Emanuel of Illinois said, “I’m surprised if anybody is surprised by this. This administration, from day one, has always chosen polluters over the environment.”
MICHAEL HAWTHORNE / Chicago Tribune 1may2008
Follow the Toxins
Five months ago, a top U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official gave Mary Gade a performance rating of "outstanding." On Thursday, the same official told her to quit or be fired as the agency's top regulator in the Midwest.
She chose to resign.
Gade, a former corporate attorney and state regulator appointed by President Bush in September 2006, became the latest EPA official to become ensnared in a long-standing dispute with Dow Chemical, which long ago acknowledged it is responsible for dioxin contamination near its Michigan headquarters but has resisted federal and state involvement in cleanup plans.
During the 1990s, Gade led the Illinois EPA under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who said he knew her as a team player who worked diligently to broker agreements between business interests and environmental groups.
"She is very committed to the environment, but she's not a fanatic," Edgar said. "She was never a Lone Ranger type."
As head of the federal EPA office in Chicago, Gade won praise from environmental groups that often are at odds with the agency.
Last summer, when BP planned to dump more pollution into Lake Michigan from its Whiting, Ind., refinery, Gade convened a special hearing that brought together regional leaders and BP representatives to discuss potential solutions. BP ultimately agreed to abide by its previous, more stringent water permit.
Gade also blocked a new water permit for the U.S. Steel mill in Gary until Indiana officials took steps to ensure it dumped less pollution into a Lake Michigan tributary.
"We didn't always agree, but she always worked hard to be very fair and objective," said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club. "I am concerned that this could have a chilling effect on the dedicated public servants who work hard every day to protect us from pollution."
Dow spokesman John Musser said the company did not know Gade had been forced out. He said Dow still prefers to work with the EPA over Michigan officials, whom the federal agency has designated to oversee future dioxin cleanup.
But Gade's actions against Dow outraged many local officials in the Saginaw area.
"In 20 years of public life I have never encountered a more unprofessional, vindictive and insulting government official," said U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), whose wife is a former Dow attorney.
Critics said Gade's ouster was another example of the Bush administration working on behalf of polluters.
Said U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.): "I'm surprised if anybody is surprised by this."
A Chicago-area Republican, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, said: "Congress will want to make sure that no action was taken because an employee aggressively acted to protect the public."
When EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced that the president had appointed Gade to the regional job in Chicago, he touted her "impressive environmental career" that began at the agency two decades earlier.
For her part, Gade has described herself in the past as a loyal Bush supporter.
In an essay published by the Atlantic magazine in 2000, Gade wrote that Bush had a "stronger bipartisan record on conservation and the environment than Al Gore ... precisely because Bush puts action and results above talk and posture."