Sept. 4 ó The Environmental Protection Agency released a preliminary
report today that found severe flaws in several Ohio environmental
programs, some of which were supervised by a former official who has
been nominated to become the agency's top enforcement officer.
President Bush's nominee, Donald R. Schregardus, the former
administrator of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, was
approved last month by the Senate Environment and Public Works
But since then, several Democratic senators and environmental
groups have protested the nomination, saying Mr. Schregardus was too
lax in enforcing environmental laws in Ohio.
The release of the report was essentially forced by Senator
Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who opposes Mr. Schregardus's
nomination, and its release strengthened her resolve to block a vote
by the full Senate on the nomination, a spokesman said today.
report stemmed from a petition filed in 1997 in Ohio by several
environmental groups that complained about the state's
implementation and enforcement of many environmental programs under
Mr. Schregardus's control. In the preliminary review, the federal
agency found severe failures in several areas.
For example, the review concluded that the Ohio agency was ill-
equipped to enforce the federal Clean Air Act, saying it employed
fewer people than it had indicated it needed to run its air programs
and that there had been a decline in recent years in air
inspections, investigations of complaints and amounts of penalties
It also said that the state had no program to ensure minimal
training for employees; it had not provided required information
about strategy, tracking and enforcement, and it had "a very high
level of vacancies with no system in place to expeditiously fill
The report also listed what it described as "more serious"
shortcomings: Ohio has fallen behind the statutory and regulatory
timetable for issuing certain permits; it has not implemented an
acid rain program; it has not obtained "sanitized" versions of
permit applications from applicants with confidential claims, and it
might be modifying certain permits through an administrative process
rather than a formal public comment-and-review process.
The review said that if these findings were subsequently
verified, they "may provide a basis for the commencement of
withdrawal or revocation proceedings" of one or more clean air
programs overseen by Ohio unless the state made "definitive
commitments to address U.S. E.P.A.'s concerns."
The language was unusually strong for a federal agency examining
state implementation of its programs. Although the review was
prepared by the agency's regional office in Chicago, it was still
striking coming from the federal government in the midst of a
political battle over a presidential nomination.
Tina Kreisher, a spokeswoman for Christie Whitman, the head of
the federal environmental agency, said Mrs. Whitman stood by Mr.
Schregardus. Ms. Kreisher cited a letter Mrs. Whitman wrote last
month in which she said Mr. Schregardus had compiled "an impressive
record" in Ohio.
Regarding the federal criticism of a nominee, Ms. Kreisher said:
"This study didn't start under the Bush administration. This is not
a study on Don Schregardus. That is apples and oranges."
Sandy Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Ohio Citizen Action, one of the
groups that initiated the petition, said, "While they were trying to
throw the nominee a life preserver, they've thrown him an anchor
It was clearly an embarrassment to the federal agency, whose
leader recently initiated an administration effort to rally support
for Mr. Schregardus.
A press release from the federal agency sought to cast the review
in a positive light. It quoted Mrs. Whitman as saying: "Overall,
Ohio continues to make progress in protecting the environment.
Nonetheless, there is work to be done, together. Concerning clean
water programs, Ohio has committed to actions that will allow its
continued administration of these programs."
The press release continued: "For the clean air programs, the
report clearly identifies steps that must be taken by Ohio to
prevent any future proceedings that could revoke the state's
delegation of those programs. The E.P.A. will work closely with Ohio
to implement these changes."
Mr. Schregardus was the administrator of the Ohio agency from
1991 through 1999, and the report covers 1995 until 2000.
Senator Boxer has placed a "hold" on Mr. Schregardus's
nomination. A "hold" is a procedural move that can block a
nomination from reaching a vote by the full Senate.
Ms. Boxer had said she wanted the review completed before she
would consider releasing her hold. David Sandretti, her spokesman,
said today that the report failed to reassure the senator and that
she would keep the nomination on hold indefinitely.
"The information we have received thus far about the E.P.A.
report on the Ohio investigation does not appear to resolve Senator
Boxer's concerns about the Schregardus nomination," Mr. Sandretti
The Bush administration dispatched Ed Krenik, the agency's
liaison to Congress, to Capitol Hill today to brief the staffs of
senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee. And
environmentalists took that as a sign that the administration was
worried about Mr. Schregardus's fate.
"This is an indication they know this nomination is in trouble
and they feel a need to explain it," said Laura Chapin of the
Environmental Working Group.
Several senators, including James M. Jeffords, the Vermont
independent who is the chairman of the environment committee, have
taken the position that a president is entitled to have the team he
wants. As a result, it is not clear if opponents of Mr. Schregardus
could get the 51 votes needed to block his