Peggy Anderson, Associated Press, October 31, 2006
The region’s new Environmental Protection Agency administrator — a former Dow Chemical executive — was greeted by about two dozen protesters Monday, her first day on the job.
Activists raised concerns about Elin Miller’s 1996-2004 stint at Dow and her subsequent work with Tokyo-based pesticide maker Arysta LifeScience.
“EPA has a responsibility to protect the community and an appointment like this reflects their unwillingness to so,” said Jeri Sundvall-Williams, executive director of the Environmental Justice Action Group, in a joint news release from activist groups. It’s an example “of the fox guarding the henhouse,” she said.
“We know the public and EPA are not always going to agree on everything. We want people to know they’re being heard,” agency spokesman Mark MacIntyre said of the demonstration.
Miller also served as chief deputy of California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation and in 1995 was named to head California’s Department of Conservation, which oversees oil and gas production.
Environmentalists are also concerned about some reshuffling in the office of civil rights and environmental justice for the EPA’s Region X, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. That office traditionally handles such issues as cleanup of an industrial site in a poor neighborhood, where residents are concerned about exposure.
MacIntyre said two of the three people in the office — the two who focused on environmental justice — are being moved to the office of ecosystems, tribal and community affairs.
“That’s the best fit for that job. People in that unit are already working on service to communities, working with farmworkers on pesticides and other issues,” MacIntyre said. The civil-rights person will remain in the office of management programs, where the three-member unit had been based.
“We understand what people are saying … but we feel pretty strongly that the way we’re going to be organizing the office of environmental justice will make the effort stronger, not weaker,” MacIntyre said.
But B.J. Cummings of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition in Seattle declared, “They’re closing the office and scattering the staff to different programs. … It’s an entirely different level of commitment.
“Duwamish River neighborhoods suffer from Superfund sites, air emissions and industrial waste that the rest of Seattle is largely spared,” Cummings added. “It’s no coincidence that these communities are our poorest and represent the largest Latino population in the city. They need more protection, not less.”