It can be difficult at times to clearly identify the environmental goals and directives of Scott Pruitt’s EPA, but one clear directive of the administration is to advance the Superfund program. At the EPA, Superfund is administered by the Office of Land and Emergency Management. The office also oversees the regulation of hazardous waste, brownfields, and waste management. Clearly, the Office of Land and Emergency Management is of the utmost importance to CHEJ because it administers Superfund, the program which Lois Gibbs helped develop.
The Office of Land and Emergency Management has been led by Albert Kelly until his resignation earlier this month. Kelly resigned amid controversies over his banking past. Kelly was reportedly was banned from banking for life by the FDIC. Given his career history as a banker, many were skeptical of how Kelly would handle the administration of the Superfund program when he was nominated last year. Despite skepticism, Kelly proved to be a competent and considerate administrator.
Kelly worked closely with many within CHEJ’s network to clean up communities. When Kelly announced his resignation, Dawn Chapman, founder of Just Moms STL said, “I’m pretty heartbroken today, I only know what this guy was doing for our community. I saw a man that had real compassion.” Chapman had been working with Kelly to get federal funding to clean up and evacuate the West Lake Landfill. Kelly brought transparency, action, and openness to the Superfund program. During his tenure, Kelly sought to bring action and movement to sites that have been dormant for too long.
Yesterday, it was announced that Steven Cook will replace Kelly as chair of the Superfund task force. Cook like Kelly, lacks experience in the environmental field, but this wasn’t detrimental for Kelly as he quickly learned how to work with communities to enact real change. Before the EPA, Cook served as senior counsel for LyondellBasell, self-described as “one of the largest plastics, chemicals, and refining companies in the world.” Regardless of Cook’s previous work experience, he is now overseeing a program that requires polluters to pay for their damage to harmed communities.
What CHEJ will look for from Cook as he enters his new position as chair of the Superfund task force:
- Action– We want to see real and meaningful action within the Superfund Program.
- Openness– Follow in the footsteps of Kelly and gather input from all sides.
- Listening– Hear from the communities that are being directly affected by the toxins in their backyard.
- Put people over industry– Human lives are infinitely more valuable than any cooperate dollar. Put the people and their communities before polluting corporations.
CHEJ wishes Steven Cook the best of luck in administering the Superfund program, but we will be watching to see what type of administrator he will be.