Civil servants quit or get canned for bucking bad environmental policy
In Nick Turse’s astonishing list of Bush administration casualties — civil servants who have quit or been fired for bucking administration policy — are numerous entries of interest to greens. Here are a few:
Tony Oppegard and Jack Spadaro: Oppegard and Spadaro were members of a “team of federal geodesic engineers selected to investigate the collapse of barriers that held back a coal slurry pond in Kentucky containing toxic wastes from mountaintop strip-mining.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this had been “the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the Eastern United States.” Oppegard, who the headed the team, “was fired on the day Bush was inaugurated… All eight members of the team except Spadaro signed off on a whitewashed investigation report. Spadaro, like the others, was harassed but flat-out refused to sign. In April of 2001 Spadaro resigned from the team and filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Labor Department… he was placed on administrative leave–a prelude to getting fired.” Two months before his 28th anniversary as a federal employee, and after years of harassment due to his stance, Spadaro resigned. “I’m just very tired of fighting,” he said. “I’ve been fighting this administration since early 2001. I want a little peace for a while.” Oppegrad: Fired, January 20, 2001. Spaddaro: Resigned, October 1, 2003.
Martha Hahn: The state director for the Bureau of Land Management, “responsible for 12 million acres in Idaho, almost one-quarter of the state” for seven years, Hahn found her authority drastically curtailed after the Bush administration took office. She watched as the administration blocked public comment on mining initiatives and opened up previously protected areas to environmental degradation. After she locked horns with cattle interests over grazing rights, she received a letter stating she was being transferred from her beloved Rocky Mountain West to “a previously nonexistent job in New York City.” “It’s been a shock,” she said. “I’m going through mental anguish right now. I felt like I was at the prime of my career.” Hahn was told to accept the involuntary reassignment or resign. Resigned, March 6, 2002.
Sylvia K. Lowrance: A top Environmental Protection Agency official who served the agency for over 20 years, including as Assistant Administrator of its Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for the first 18 months of the Bush administration, Lowrance retired, stating, “We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws.” she said, “This Administration has pulled cases and put investigations on ice. They sent every signal they can to staff to back off.” Retired, August 2002.
Bruce Boler: An EPA scientist who resigned from his post because, he said, “Wetlands are often referred to as nature’s kidneys. Most self-respecting scientists will tell you that, and yet [private] developers and officials [at the Army Corps of Engineers] wanted me to support their position that wetlands are, literally, a pollution source.” Resigned, October 23, 2003.
Bruce Buckheit: A 30-year veteran of government service, Buckheit retired in frustration over Bush administration efforts to weaken environmental regulations. When asked by NBC reporter Stone Phillips, “What’s the biggest enforcement challenge right now when it comes to air pollution?,” the former Senior Counsel with the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and then Director of EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, was unequivocal: “The Bush Administration.” He went on to note that “this administration has decided to put the economic interests of the coal fired power plants ahead of the public interests in reducing air pollution.” Resigned, November 2003.
Rich Biondi: A 32-year EPA employee, Biondi retired from his post as Associate Director of the Air Enforcement Division of the Environmental Protection Agency. He stated, “We weren’t given the latitude we had been, and the Bush administration was interfering more and more with the ability to get the job done. There were indications things were going to be reviewed a lot more carefully, and we needed a lot more justification to bring lawsuits.” Retired, December 2004.
There are plenty more. Read the whole thing.