Anchorage -Susan Harvey, the top manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) on oil industry matters, resigned from state service yesterday. Her resignation comes in the wake of an ADEC employee survey by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) showing a widespread perception that ADEC allows industry to dictate agency staff assignments on important regulatory matters.
This past December, under heavy industry pressure, ADEC removed Harvey from overseeing permits for North Slope exploration activity. Harvey, a well-respected engineer with previous experience at ARCO Alaska, BP Exploration, Standard Oil and Conoco, served as Manager of the Industry Preparedness and Pipeline Program regulating oil tankers, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, off-loading terminals and tank farms and, until recently, exploration and refinery operations.
Her letter of resignation cited a desire “to focus my professional career on technical work, where sound scientific analysis and engineering are honored as the main determinants for real, measurable environmental improvements, rather than political solutions.”
Under Harvey, ADEC had cited deficiencies in spill response, overfill alarms and leak detection systems in industry North Slope operations. In removing Harvey, ADEC assigned a political appointee to sign-off on permits and enforcement actions.
“Growing numbers of ethical professionals are finding it harder to faithfully serve the people of Alaska and toe the political line within the agencies,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Losing people like Susan Harvey signals continuing degeneration at ADEC.”
In the PEER survey of ADEC employees released last week, clear majorities of respondents reported that ADEC:
- “Often puts more weight on economic development than resource protection” and views its “primary ‘customer’ to be the individuals and businesses that seek permits rather than the public or the resource;”
- Inconsistently enforces environmental laws, favoring big industries over “the interests of ordinary citizens and small business;” and
- Reassigns staff “for doing their job ‘too well’ on a controversial project.”
One in five acknowledged orders to “violate State law” while one in three “fear job-related retaliation for openly advocating policy or permit decisions that are unfavorable to major industries.”
Complete PEER survey results, including employee essays, are available upon request or may be found on the PEER website at: surveys