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Former EPA regional administrator urges colleagues to ‘fight back’

courtesy New York Now

Judith Enck, the former regional administrator of the EPA under President Barack Obama, said the new head of the EPA under President Donald Trump threatens to roll back major environmental regulations, including climate change actions and pollution protections.

In an interview for public radio and television, Enck explained why she took the unprecedented step of signing on to a letter, along with hundreds of former EPA staff, protesting Scott Pruitt.

Enck said that in her final speech to her staff at EPA, before she resigned to become the visiting scholar at Pace University Law school, she urged them to be respectful — but to “fight back internally” if they are asked to not enforce environmental laws or “turn a blind eye” to evidence of drinking water pollution, and then decide what they should do if their efforts don’t succeed.

She told the career scientists and others remaining at EPA to “get familiar with the federal whistleblower law.”

Enck, who worked for a time as former Attorney General and Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s environmental adviser, said Spitzer formed the template for state attorneys general suing the federal EPA, bringing court action 15 times against the Bush administration.

Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, sued the EPA 14 times. Current New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is poised to use those lessons to fight in court against any rollbacks from the Trump EPA.

She also said her main criticism of the EPA is it moves too slowly.

Enck also commented on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s energy plan to get 50 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030 as a “step in the right direction.” She disagrees, however, with an $8 billion plan to finance upstate nuclear power plants while Cuomo is also pushing to close the downstate Indian Point nuclear power plant.

Enck, who was the first official to tell people in the village of Hoosick Falls not to drink the water when it was found to be contaminated with the chemical PFOA, said she doubts her successor at the EPA would be that proactive.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.