Enck looks back on role with EPA in WNY, accomplishments under Obama
Since late 2009, she has led Region 2 of the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes New York State. Judith Enck, who was appointed to her post as Administrator is in her final week on the job and is reflecting on accomplishments, both locally and at the national level.
Enck's region covers New York, nine Native American territories within the Empire State, New Jersey, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. When asked about the most significant accomplishments by the EPA and its partners in Western New York during her term, Enck suggested it was bringing justice to the company Tonawanda Coke, which was found to be polluting its surroundings with discharges far above federally acceptable levels.
"The air monitoring we did showed benzene levels that were 75 times higher than what federal and state guidelines would allow," she said.
The government took actions including a $12.5 million dollar fine and prosecution of a company executive that led to a conviction and jail sentence. Most of that financial penalty was used for local cleanup.
The EPA under Obama, Enck added, also invested large sums of money to clean up area waterways including the Great Lakes.
"We're not done, for sure," she told WBFO. "President Obama put a lot of money into protecting the Great Lakes. The EPA provided $1.6 billion to fund Great Lakes projects, through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was a real priority."
When asked about the president's environmental legacy, Enck suggested it is his leadership in addressing climate change.
Enck takes exception when people ask if she "believes in climate change." She says the science shows it is happening and scientists, whom often compete for research funds and thus often times take contrary positions, are in agreement that it is happening. Enck says to deny climate is change is like saying one doesn't believe in gravity.
The man nominated by President-Elect Donald Trump to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has publicly questioned the science of climate change and has suggested the EPA overreaches with regulations. Enck says the evidence is there and it's important to stay on top of it.
"It's so important that we not lose four years of leadership on this issue," she said. "I think President Obama has really distinguished himself, not only in pushing EPA hard but also other federal agencies who have an important role to play in providing funding for investments in clean, renewable energy."
Enck expressed hope that Pruitt, if confirmed and installed, might have a change of heart upon seeing the data more closely.
While Enck will be leaving her politically-appointed job, hundreds of other staff will remain in place. She won't be out of work for long. Beginning February 1, Enck will take on her new role as visiting scholar at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.