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August 30, 2001

 





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Article published August 28, 2001


Marion leukemia inquiry may affect EPA job hearing

By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER


Toledoan Paul Jayko’s battle to regain his job as coordinator of the Marion leukemia investigation could be a factor in Washington next month when the Senate is expected to decide whether to confirm former Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Don Schregardus to a high-level federal job.

Several Democratic senators are opposed to President Bush’s nomination of Mr. Schregardus as assistant U.S. EPA administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance.

The primary assignment of the job that pays $130,000 annually is to see that federal environmental regulations are carried out by the states. That’s something critics allege Mr. Schregardus fought to prevent in Ohio when he was state EPA director for both terms of U.S. Sen. George Voinovich’s tenure as governor.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), one of two senators who recently invoked a privilege called a "hold" to delay proceedings,

She was referring to Mr. Jayko’s claim for federal whistleblower protection from his employer, the Ohio EPA, which had taken him off the case and attempted to discipline him for being forthcoming about details of the leukemia investigation at the main River Valley school complex. Mr. Jayko won an extensive legal battle against the agency, and settled the agency’s appeal in February.

Mr. Voinovich claimed that Ms. Boxer’s view of the Jayko case has been influenced by liberals.

"The radical environmental groups will do everything they can to stop Schregardus. They’ll find anything, the Jayko case - whatever," he said.

The Jayko case was heard by Judge Thomas F. Phalen, Jr., a U.S. Labor Department administrative law judge from Cincinnati. In his 106-page ruling, issued in October, the judge claimed evidence shows that Ohio EPA management under Mr. Schregardus "wanted to do something graduated and far less effective" than a full investigation in Marion.

Mr. Voinovich, in northwest Ohio yesterday touring FirstEnergy Co.’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant, defended Mr. Schregardus as a "competent" administrator skilled at enforcing environmental law. Mr. Voinovich now claims he did not recommend him for the federal job.

Mr. Voinovich, who is on the committee that first heard the nomination, said he recommended Mr. Schregardus to be the EPA’s regional administrator for the Midwest. That job is based in Chicago, not Washington.

The senator said it is no coincidence that Mr. Schregardus is getting opposition from some East Coast senators, because of the much-publicized feud over costly ozone regulations that affect Midwestern power plants. The East Coast has claimed it cannot reduce its smog until greater restrictions are placed on coal-fired power plants in the Midwest and South.

"For years, they [the East Coast] used us as the whipping boy for not doing what they were supposed to be doing themselves," Mr. Voinovich said.


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