More EPA Officials Resign or Retire in Frustration with Bush Administration

"We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws."

Published: 06-Jan-2004

INGTON -- "The rug was pulled out from under us," said Rich Biondi, who is retiring as associate director of the air enforcement division of the agency. "You look around and say, `What contribution can I continue to make here?' and it was limited."

Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the agency, said of the departures, "This is an office of several hundred employees -- and to have one political appointee and two career employees leave is not indicative of unrest or departmentwide frustration."

In August, the administration changed air pollution rules to give utility companies more leeway to modernize their power plants without having to upgrade their pollution control equipment. That change prompted the agency's enforcement division to drop investigations into about 50 power plants for suspected violations of the Clean Air Act. Last month, however, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the administration from enforcing the new air pollution rules.

The head of the agency's enforcement division, J. P. Suarez, announced his resignation on Monday to take a job as general counsel at a division of Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, in Arkansas. Mr. Suarez has been at the agency for 18 months. The E.P.A. announced in November that it was going to suspend investigations into utilities after the administration loosened the sections of the Clean Air Act that govern aging coal-burning power plants.

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