Statement of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
Nomination of John P. Suarez to be the Assistant Administrator,
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the EPA
Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening today’s nomination hearing. As you know, finding an experienced and credible individual to fill this particular position – the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) – is extremely important to me.
Last August I put a hold on the Administration’s first OECA nominee, Donald Schregardus. I did so for a number of reasons, all stemming from a great concern that Mr. Schregardus would do more harm than good to environmental enforcement. This concern was based on his record as head of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. He had considerable experience, but he – too often – took the side of the polluters, not the people or the environment.
Today, as I look at the Administration’s second nominee to head environmental enforcement and compliance, I am again concerned. The Administration has changed its strategy entirely, going from a nominee with a bad environmental enforcement record to a nominee with no environmental enforcement record.
I don’t say that to disparage Mr. Suarez, or to imply that his professional experience – most recently as the Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement – is not interesting or impressive in its own right.
I personally think an appointment to the Department of Justice would be appropriate. I understand he was being considered for a U.S. Attorney position a few months ago. If I was on the Judiciary Committee, I would support his nomination for that type of position – or even perhaps as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, overseeing the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.
But, for the environmental enforcement position at EPA, I am looking for someone who has experience working with environmental laws and regulations. We need someone who has a working knowledge of the intricacies of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, RCRA and CERCLA – not just a familiarity with their acronyms. We need someone who has not just an enforcement background, but an environmental enforcement background.
The last person to hold this position – Steven Herman – was a career environmental litigation attorney at the Department of Justice for 15 years before he was nominated. For the last nine of those he was Assistant Chief of the General Litigation Section, Environmental and Natural Resources Division. During this time he received seven outstanding service awards from the Justice Department. When President Clinton chose him for this position, there was no question as to why. His environmental record was comprehensive and compelling.
I was hoping the Administration would send us someone with these kinds of qualifications. From all I can tell, the Administration has sent us a fine person – and one who is eminently qualified for any number of positions. But he has no experience on the environment.
In a way, Mr. Suarez is in an untenable position. He has responded to the call to serve his country, but has been asked to enforce environmental laws in an Administration that does not appear to want them enforced and, furthermore, has ignored Congress’s mandate to provide the personnel necessary to enforce the laws.
Mr. Suarez, I look forward to exploring your environmental record and environmental commitment today.
Thank you again Mr. Chairman for convening this hearing.