EPA Enforcement Pick to Serve Without Senate Confirmation
Susan Bodine Starts as “Special Counsel to Administrator on Enforcement” on Tues.
Washington, DC — The Trump nominee to oversee enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will begin work without waiting for confirmation by the U.S. Senate, according to an agency email posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The nomination of Susan Bodine to lead EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has drawn significant opposition and remains pending on the Senate floor.
In an August 29th email, EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson announced that Susan Bodine “will join the Agency on Sept. 5 as special counsel to the administrator on enforcement.” Jackson makes clear Bodine will not wait for the required Senate approval, noting that:
“Larry Starfield remains the acting assistant for enforcement and will work closely with Susan in her new role until the U.S. Senate confirms her.”
“This maneuver does not bode well for what we can expect from someone charged with enforcing the law,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the haste to involve her in enforcement matters raises questions underlining her opponents’ concerns. “What positive enforcement contribution does Susan Bodine bring that cannot wait another week or two for confirmation?”
In July, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee approved her nomination on a 12-9 vote, due to concerns raised by Democrats whether Bodine would weaken anti-pollution enforcement and her refusal to pledge opposition to extending enforcement breaks to politically-connected corporate violators. Bodine had been Chief Counsel of that Committee serving under Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a political supporter of his Sooner State protégé, current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
The move also appears to fly in the face of the spirit, if not the letter, of a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act bars unconfirmed presidential nominees from performing the duties of that office in an acting capacity or from serving as “first assistants who automatically assume acting duties.”
Thus far at EPA, Trump has placed a number of political appointees, many of whom have financial ties to oil, gas and other interests with large stakes in EPA decisions, in slots not requiring Senate approval. In Bodine’s private practice, she represented scores of clients dealing with EPA enforcement actions.
“Advice and consent of the Senate is not some formality or courtesy, it is a constitutional requirement,” added Ruch. “Perhaps, President Trump will dispense with confirmations when possible and rely upon herds of political special assistants and deputies who never have to answer questions in the light of day.”
At the same time, EPA records obtained by PEER indicate a collapse in EPA criminal enforcement, with new criminal cases opened in 2017 down by nearly two-thirds just since 2012 and on a pace to set a new modern low. The number of criminal investigators has also fallen precipitously leading to an enforcement evaporation as fewer agents generate fewer cases leading to ever-fewer convictions down the road.
“Few expect Susan Bodine to reinvigorate EPA’s anemic anti-pollution efforts but many fear she will do the opposite,” Ruch concluded.
View 2017 Supreme Court decision outlawing nominees serving as acting leaders