The Chicago Tribune has just reported that Mary Gade, the Bush administration’s top environmental regulator in the Midwest, has been forced to quit her job after months of efforts to get Dow Chemicals to clean up dioxin contamination around its Michigan headquarters. The Tribune’s Michael Hawthorne explains:
Gade, a former corporate attorney appointed by Bush in September 2006, invoked emergency powers last year to force Dow to clean up four hot spots of dioxin, including the largest amount of the cancer-causing chemical ever recorded in the United States.
In January, Dow urged officials at the EPA’s headquarters to intervene after Gade broke off negotiations intended to renew the terms for a more comprehensive cleanup. Neither side would reveal details, citing confidentiality agreements, but Gade said Dow resisted taking steps needed to protect human health and wildlife.
Though regional EPA administrators typically have wide latitude to enforce environmental laws, Gade drew fire from officials in Washington last month after she sent contractors to test soil in a Saginaw neighborhood where Dow had found high dioxin levels.
She said top lieutenants to Stephen Johnson, the national EPA administrator, repeatedly questioned her aggressive action against Dow, which long ago acknowledged it is responsible for the dioxin contamination but has resisted federal and state involvement in cleanup plans.
Until now, Gade had evidently managed the unlikely feat of winning praise from both Bush administration officials and environmental advocates:
Gade, who led the Illinois EPA under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, previously had earned high marks from Bush administration officials and won praise from environmental groups that often are at odds with the federal agency.
Last summer, in response to public outrage over BP’s plans to dump more pollution from its Whiting, Ind., refinery into Lake Michigan, Gade convened a special hearing that brought together regional leaders and company representatives to discuss potential solutions.
The oil company’s chief executive flew to Chicago a week later to tell Mayor Richard Daley that BP would abide by the more stringent terms of its previous water permit.
Gade later blocked a new water permit for the giant U.S. Steel mill in Gary until Indiana officials took steps to ensure the plant dumped less pollution into a Lake Michigan tributary.
But evidently, Gade was just too committed to doing her job of preventing and cleaning up pollution.