DC’s Washington – Concerned about a dramatic drop in EPA enforcement, 144 former EPA employees and 55 environmental organizations urged the Senate to swiftly confirm a seasoned environmental criminal prosecutor to be the agency’s chief of enforcement.
On June 23, 2021, the Biden Administration proposed David M. Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a former head prosecutor for environmental crimes at the US Department of Justice, to lead the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. However, his appointment has been pending in the Senate for more than ten months, leaving the EPA’s underfunded civil enforcement branch without confirmed management.
Advocates expressed their hope that Uhlmann will assist EPA recovery in a letter addressed to Senate leadership today. The fall at EPA includes an approximately 50% decrease in civil inspections, criminal investigations, and cases recommended for prosecution in 2018–2021 compared to the average from 2002–2017.
Environmental organizations urged the Senate to approve the nomination of Dr. Carlton Waterhouse, a former EPA lawyer and expert in environmental justice, to head the agency’s waste management and Superfund cleanup program in a second letter to Senate leadership. This nomination had been delayed for a long time.
In his executive order from January 20, 2021, President Biden stated that he will “hold polluters accountable” and “prioritize environmental justice,” according to Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project. If the Senate can’t even vote on whether to approve the highly competent individuals he chose to improve enforcement and push for environmental justice at EPA, the President will find it difficult to keep his promises.
“Swift Senate confirmation of these highly qualified nominees, David Uhlmann and Dr. Carlton Waterhouse are critical to ensure that the EPA is able to carry out its mission to protect the health of communities across the country, promote environmental justice, and ensure a safe and healthy environment for future generations,” said Fred Krupp, president of EDF.
“We need strong leadership now to combat environmental injustice, confront the climate crisis, and enhance our environmental laws and their enforcement,” said Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice. Professor David Uhlmann and Dr. Carlton Waterhouse must be confirmed right away by the Senate.
They are crucial hires required to monitor and lead the EPA’s cleanup of hazardous waste and to refocus EPA enforcement. Politics shouldn’t stand in the way of approving the crucial leadership needed to improve community health and hold polluters accountable.
EPA’s Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C., as well as the Office of Regional Counsel in Atlanta, was led by Dr. Carlton Waterhouse, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in social ethics. He has a remarkable commitment to preserving the environment and public health, which he has proven throughout the course of his nearly 30-year career.
Dr. Waterhouse would be the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM), which is in charge of Superfund and other toxic waste management and cleanup initiatives.
A bipartisan alliance that included former Republican and Democratic political appointees at the EPA and Justice Department enthusiastically supported David Uhlmann‘s candidacy last year.
According to the letter sent to the Senate on Uhlmann’s behalf by the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of 55 environmental organizations and 144 former EPA managers and staff, “Republicans and Democrats have agreed that weakening enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other environmental laws enacted by Congress jeopardizes public health and our natural resources for many years.” “It would be a welcome return to this bipartisan tradition if Mr. Uhlmann’s appointment as the EPA’s enforcement chief were to be confirmed.”
The letter in David Uhlmann’s favor pointed out that, on average, EPA inspections, criminal investigations, civil cases started or finished, defendants accused of environmental crimes, and amounts violators paid for cleanup decreased by about 50% between the fiscal years 2018 and 2021 when compared to the period from 2002 to 2017.
The allies stated that Uhlmann desperately needed to reverse that trend and shared EPA data illustrating the severe reduction in their letter.
The following organizations are among those that signed the letter urging David Uhlmann’s confirmation:
- Air Alliance Houston
- Allegheny County Clean Air Now (ACCAN)
- Beyond Plastics
- Breathe Project
- California Communities Against Toxics
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Change the Chamber*Lobby for Climate
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Chesapeake Climate Action Fund
- Chesapeake Legal Alliance
- Clean Air Council
- Clean Water Action
- Commission Shift
- Conservation Law Foundation
- Defend our Future
- Dunkard Creek Association, Inc.
- East End Neighbors
- Environment America
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Environmental Law & Policy Center
- EPN/EPA Retired Director of the Office of Science and Technology
- Green The Church
- Greenpeace USA
- Healthy Gulf
- League of Conservation Voters
- Louisiana Environmental Action Network
- Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
- National Environmental Law Center
- National Wildlife Federation
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Patuxent Riverkeeper Center
- Potomac Riverkeeper Network
- Rio Grande International Study Center
- Save Our Springs Alliance
- Sierra Club
- Texas Campaign for the Environment/TCE Fund
- Verna Harrison Associates, LLC
- Waterway Advocates
- West Virginia Environmental Council
Click here to view a copy of the letter regarding David Uhlmann.
Click here to get a copy of the letter regarding Dr. Waterhouse.
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