Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Bush pick for EPA withdraws nomination

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — The former director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency withdrew his nomination Monday as assistant administrator at the U.S. EPA, explaining in a letter to President Bush that the Senate obviously would not hear his nomination in a timely manner.

        Senate Democrats stalled the nomination after complaints from environmentalists about Donald Schregardus' enforcement record when he led the Ohio EPA during much of the 1990s.

        A draft report from the EPA this month concluded that the state needed to do more to enforce federal clean-air regulations but had performed better on clean-water and hazardous waste programs and criminal enforcement.

        “I consider the protection of the environment to be of utmost importance to our great nation and am disappointed that I will not be able to serve in this position,” Mr. Schregardus wrote.

        He also wrote that he appreciated the support of the White House, the EPA and Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and defended his work in Ohio.

        “As a result of our efforts, the environment in Ohio is cleaner and the regulatory programs are stronger,” he wrote.

        EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman accepted his withdrawal with disappointment.

        “It is a loss to both the administration and the country that his skills and extensive background with environmental issues will not be leading our efforts in enforcement,” she said.

        President Bush selected Mr. Schregardus to oversee the EPA's enforcement and compliance. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to confirm the nomination in August and sent it to the full Senate, where Democrats used procedural rules to suspend further action.

        After the EPA's draft report on the Ohio EPA was released two weeks ago, Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., the committee's chairman, asked his staff for a more thorough review of Mr. Schregardus and his tenure in Ohio.

        Among other things, the EPA's draft report questioned Ohio's enforcement of a federal acid-rain program that Mr. Jeffords had sponsored. Sources close to the senator told reporters the investigation would take months and that the nomination was in deep trouble.

        Environmentalists claimed Mr. Schregardus was not tough enough on polluters.

        Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, said she was pleased Mr. Schregardus withdrew. Hers was one of the environmental groups that prompted the EPA to look into Ohio's environmental enforcement record. She said opposition to the nomination snowballed after Mr. Jeffords announced an expanded review.

        Mr. Voinovich, who, as governor, appointed Mr. Schregardus to head the Ohio EPA and who was an advocate for his nomination, said he was disappointed with the decision.

        “The fact is, however, I do not believe he would have received a fair hearing,” he said.


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