September 6, 2001
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Lack of support for EPA nominee Voinovich rips Bush officials
Thursday, September 6, 2001
Dispatch Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Sen. George V. Voinovich yesterday assailed the Bush administration, charging that senior officials have not aggressively pushed for Senate confirmation of former Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Donald R. Schregardus to a federal environmental post.

With Senate Democrats blocking a floor vote on Schregardus' nomination, Voinovich said U.S. EPA officials "ought to get their act together. If they want the guy, they ought to go after him. If they don't want the guy, then they're not going to get him.

"I'm upset about it because I think they've led him down the pearly path, and now (that) he needs some help, they ought to stand up and be counted.''

Voinovich said he was willing to talk to wavering senators about Schregardus, but he pointedly said, "I'm not going to go out of my way. . . . This is the administration's job to do it. OK? And if they're not willing to fight for him . . . then they're not going to get him.''

Schregardus, who directed the Ohio EPA during the eight years Voinovich was governor of Ohio from 1991 through 1998, has been nominated as assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at the federal EPA.

Voinovich voiced his complaints one day after a U.S. EPA preliminary report harshly criticized Schregardus' efforts to enforce federal clean-air laws. The draft report charged that the Ohio EPA did not have enough employees to operate its clean-air programs and that there was a decline in inspections and penalties imposed on polluters.

The authors of the report and EPA Regional Director Thomas Skinner both rejected requests by environmentalists for the federal government to revoke Ohio's authority to enforce clean-air laws. But the draft report warned that "these concerns, if unaddressed'' could lead to a federal takeover of the Ohio EPA's power to regulate federal pollution laws.

The U.S. EPA made the draft report public after a request by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has delayed a floor vote on Schregardus' nomination. Under Senate rules, one senator can block a confirmation vote through what is known as a "hold.''

In an interview yesterday, Boxer said her hold is "very firm. I oppose him at this point and any doubts that I had have certainly been reinforced.''

The draft report was the result of complaints filed with the federal government in 1997 by four state environmental groups. The organizations argued that Schregardus was too lax in enforcing federal anti-pollution laws and contend that while Schregardus headed the Ohio EPA, legal actions to force companies to clean up contaminated sites dropped by more than 50 percent from 1991 to 1996.

Voinovich yesterday insisted that that "the bottom line is, they reviewed his record more than any other record in the country and found that overall he did a very, very good job. There were some things that they thought needed to be improved. It just goes to point out that Don Schregardus was a fine administrator who did a good job. Was he perfect? No. Is there room for improvement? Yes.

"I think he would be a fine person in charge of enforcement and those people who have concerns about his objectivity are going to be very, very pleased with the kind of job he would do.''

Voinovich reiterated that he did not recommend Schregardus to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman for the assistant administrator's job. Instead, Voinovich said, he urged that Whitman appoint him for the Region 5 director's post that went to Skinner.

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