Romney Hog-Tied Pollution Prosecution
Enforcement Obstruction, Disruption and “Kill the Lawyers” Style in Massachusetts
Boston — As Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney routinely impeded prosecution of pollution and public health laws through policies designed to tie the hands of police, inspectors and enforcement attorneys, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Besides an openly pro-corporate tilt, disruptive reorganizations Romney ordered created chaos in ongoing cases.
From his first days as Governor, Romney targeted environmental enforcement by –
- Laying off eco-attorneys, moving those remaining into a central office, thereby interrupting scores of cases, and stripping these attorneys of civil service protections making them fire-able at will;
- Limiting the state police charged with enforcing hazardous waste and public health/safety laws by not filling vacancies, leaving a leadership void and discouraging actions against corporate violators; and
- Closing a major regional office which later had to be reopened due to the precipitous drop in environmental inspections from staff having to travel long distances.
“The Romney environmental enforcement philosophy was Shakespearean – first, kill all the lawyers,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a lawyer and biologist formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), noting that making these attorneys into pleasure appointments effectively put case decisions under political control. “Governor Romney did more to politicize pollution prosecution decisions than any other chief executive in the history of the Commonwealth.”
Besides seeking to centralize control of eco-enforcement, Romney officials also tried to limit access to information about enforcement. For example, Romney officials blocked the release of a report urging a major upgrade in resource enforcement by the Massachusetts Environmental Police, which enforces anti-pollution, wildlife protection and marine safety laws. Perhaps not surprisingly, a PEER survey of eco-police found high percentages reporting interference with enforcement, retaliation for pursuing cases and a belief that environmental enforcement was being weakened.
Similarly, Romney overrode objections to closing a regional office of the state Department of Environmental Protection. He was forced to re-open that same regional office three years later when it became undeniable that the added travel cost for inspectors and enforcement staff exceeded the small savings of shutting the office.
“During his tenure in Massachusetts, Governor Romney showed little interest in or aptitude for protecting our citizens and resources from environmental peril,” Bennett added. “These same policies replicated on a national level would eviscerate the effectiveness of our pollution and public health laws.”