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Washington, DC — Jimmy Palmer, the top U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency official for the Southeastern U.S., recently testified against his own
agency in a criminal trial on behalf of a former developer client, according
to trial testimony released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). Palmer testified that he considered EPA to have been “unethical,”
heavy handed” and on a “crusade to destroy” his former client,
who was then found guilty on precisely the grounds cited by EPA— and disputed
by Palmer.

Palmer was selected by President Bush to oversee EPA operations in the eight-state
Southeastern Region in October 2001 and was sworn in following Senate confirmation
the following January. At the time of his selection, Palmer was the lawyer for
a Mississippi developer named Robert Lucas who sought Palmer’s help in
subdividing land and installing septic tanks in a 2600-acre development called
Big Hills Acres.

In March 2005, after a jury trial, Lucas was convicted for misrepresenting
the habitability of the lots and installing septic systems in saturated wetland
soils at Big Hill Acres, despite warnings from the state Department of Health
that doing so created a public health threat. Lucas also ignored numerous warnings,
as well as cease and desist orders, from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
and EPA because the deteriorating systems threatened to contaminate the local
drinking water aquifer.

At the trial, Lucas called Palmer as a defense witness. Palmer, testifying
on his own time under subpoena, confirmed his role in advising Lucas in how
to sell lots for development despite official cease and desist orders. Palmer
also admitted that he regarded EPA staff as “unethical” and overzealous
in enforcing the Clean Water Act and aggressively resisted earlier enforcement

“After reading this transcript, the only question is when did Jimmy Palmer
stop representing developers,” asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch,
noting that EPA has yet to veto a single development project for wetlands violations,
or any other reason, during Palmer’s tenure.

In his official capacity as EPA Regional Administrator, Palmer now has before
him more than a score of questionable mega-projects that would destroy thousands
of wetlands acres in endangered species habitat in order to build projects such
as gated golf-course luxury condominium complexes. Palmer has signaled that
he will greenlight every project, despite concerns about violations of the Clean
Water Act and other environmental laws that Palmer and his agency are supposed
to be enforcing.

“Jimmy Palmer never met a development project that he did not like,”
Ruch added. “Even today, Palmer routinely takes calls from developers’
lawyers and directly intervenes to ‘fix’ cases over the objections
of his increasingly frustrated staff.”


the Jimmy Palmer testimony

EPA news release announcing the indictments

background about the development projects on Palmer’s desk

at the recent letter to Palmer from PEER and other conservation groups requesting
a veto of the Mirasol Flowway project

Phone: 202-265-7337

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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Environmental Responsibility

PEER is a 501(c)(3) organization
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