Pruitt names high school graduate Cathy Stepp to head the EPA’s Great Lakes Region, where she’ll be responsible for 85% of our nation’s fresh water reserves

Kakistocracy is defined as “a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens.”

Above is a photo of Cathy Stepp. Until deciding to run for elected office in Wisconsin back in the early 2000s, she ran a residential construction company with her husband. She has no scientific credentials. She has never so much as attended college. And, unless we stop it from happening, she will soon be responsible, as the head of the Great Lakes region of the Environmental Protection Agency, for making sure the people of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin have safe air to breathe and water to drink.

While it may be true that Stepp has very little in the way of relevant experience when it comes to fighting on the behalf of regular Americans to ensure that their air and water are both clean and safe, she did spend several years as the head of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, where she made a name for herself as someone willing to slash science and research budgets, enact more “business friendly” policies, and fight against the scientific community on climate change. [Stepp, an outspoken Trump supporter, had served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 2003 to 2007, before agreeing to run the Wisconsin DNR under Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2011. Walker liked what he called, her “chamber of commerce mentality.”] And apparently this attracted the attention of Scott Pruitt, the man selected by Donald Trump to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency from the inside. So, after a short stint as a deputy administrator in EPA Region 7, which oversees Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and nine tribal nations, Stepp has apparently been tapped to run EPA Region 5, where my family and I live.

Assuming Stepp is confirmed for the position, she will be the main person responsible for ensuring that the more than 30 million people who live in the Great Lakes basin have potable water and breathable air. She will also be the person charged with oversight of approximately 85% of our nation’s fresh water reserves. She would, in other words, be the person we’d be counting on to ensure that the people of Flint are no longer drinking poison water, failsafe systems are in place to ensure against pipeline ruptures in the Great Lakes, and polluters are held accountable for their actions.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, however, appears to see the role somewhat differently than I do. In announcing Stepp’s appointment, Pruitt didn’t mention the serious environmental challenges facing the Great Lakes region. Instead, he said that Stepp’s presence would, bring “a fresh perspective” to the EPA as the agency worked to “implement President Trump’s agenda”. [I thought the EPA’s agenda was to protect the environment, but, apparently, at least according to Pruitt, it’s to help advance Trump’s pro-corporate agenda.]

As for what we might expect from Stepp, here, from Pitch.com, is just a little of what she accomplished while are the Wisconsin DNR, before being called up to join Pruitt and the EPA wrecking crew.

…Her record in the Badger State is in step with Pruitt’s pro-industry to-do list. While she was head of the Wisconsin DNR, enforcement of environmental regulations dwindled. At least two audits were critical of the agency; one found that, 95 percent of the time from 2005 through 2014, the DNR had failed to issue violation notices to known wastewater polluters. According to news reports, she also greatly restructured the agency, shedding many of the science and environmental professionals. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that on her watch, the DNR blacklisted citizens who were perceived as having asked too many questions…

And, if you still want more, Kerry Schumann, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, had this to say about the appointment of Stepp to run the EPA’s Great Lakes Region.

…Before Cathy Stepp’s appointment as secretary of the Wisconsin DNR, the agency was widely considered one of the best of its kind in the country. Under her watch, the agency’s environmental enforcement abilities were dismantled, its scientists kicked out, its website scrubbed of climate change information and, under the orders of the Walker Administration, she shifted its focus from protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources to handing out favors to polluters. It makes sense the Trump EPA is looking for people like Cathy Stepp, people who are willing to sell out our environment to the highest bidder. The consequences will be stark. With environmental rollbacks like the Foxconn disaster, the pending removal of wetlands protections, and the elimination of all our air quality standards in the state, Wisconsin will also have fewer and fewer protections from the EPA to help maintain water we can drink, air we can breathe, land that doesn’t flood, and its public health…

None of this, of course, should surprise us. This is what’s happening at every level of government today, as Trump makes good on the promise of Steve Bannon to “destroy the administrative state,” appointing an anti-public education zealot to head the Department of Education, a person who said on the record that he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy to run the Department of Energy, and a man who rejects the EPA’s very mission to head the EPA. The goal is to drastically shrink government through a brilliant combination of evil and incompetence, taking power from the American people, and handing it over to the corporations and the super-wealthy individuals who are keeping the Republican party in power, even as their ideas are increasingly unpopular with the American people. And Stepp, I’m afraid, is just the most recent foot soldier in this fight… someone willing to hack away at the very underpinnings of our nation in exchange for a position of power and the promise of financial reward.

Personally, I’m at a loss as to how we stop Stepp’s nomination from advancing. As far as I know, regional EPA directors don’t even need to go through confirmation hearings at the federal level. And, even if we could derail her, I don’t imagine the next person in line would be any better. Still, though, it can’t hurt to call your elected officials and ask what they intend to do about the nomination of Cathy Stepp, right?

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6 Comments

  1. The Hill
    Posted December 27, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    NEW: Trump EPA chief Pruitt wants to redefine what it means to be an environmentalist hill.cm/TCcaw6v

  2. KS
    Posted December 27, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    This appointment is representative of so many others. NOAA got someone whose life work has been privatizing weather.

  3. Eel
    Posted December 27, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    IDK, she seems OK to me. Not many people take it upon themselves to care for sick baby deer like that.

  4. Meta
    Posted December 27, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    The Chicago Sun Times editorial board: “As Trump weakens EPA, citizens must lead fight to protect environment”

    All of us will need to fight harder to protect the quality of our air and drinking water as we watch the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump increasingly put down its tools and walk off the job.

    Trump’s EPA is headed by Scott Pruitt, who has a clear disdain for the agency’s mission. On Dec. 19, Pruitt appointed Cathy Stepp — someone with a history of cutting back protections for clean air and water — to head the critical Chicago-based Region 5 of the EPA, which is responsible for protecting six Great Lakes states.

    The Great Lakes hold about 85 percent of North America’s fresh water, so a key part of Stepp’s job is to protect the lakes.

    But in the six years she ran the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources before she left in August to become deputy administrator of an EPA regional office in Kansas City, Stepp showed little interest in environmental stewardship — even to the point of deleting references to human-caused climate change on the department’s website. At Wisconsin’s DNR, she tangled with the Region 5 office she is about to head; employees there wanted her to correct deficiencies in Wisconsin’s clean-water protections.

    According to a Wisconsin state audit, between 2005 and 2014 the department failed to issue violation notices to wastewater polluters nearly 95 percent of the time. A Sierra Club official in Wisconsin said a third of residents in the northeastern part of the state can’t drink their water because of factory farm contamination. During Stepp’s tenure, experienced staff members quit.

    Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters director Kerry Schumann said Stepp left the department “in tatters.”

    Is that the model we want to bring to Lake Michigan, which provides drinking water for the Chicago area?

    Region 5 of the EPA is a critical part of our environmental defenses. At a time when state environmental agencies in the region, other than Minnesota’s, have grown lax or are underfunded, as in Illinois, Region 5 has played an important role in stopping dangerous pollutants. Historically, Region 5 has had the scientific know-how and the resources to track threats and implement solutions. It also runs the very important Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which works to reverse decades of industrial pollution and to mitigate the impact of invasive species.

    But even before Stepp takes over in January, Region 5 has been losing knowledgeable scientists and skilled lawyers who took buyouts or just left because the Trump administration has a cavalier attitude toward environmental protection. The agency needs a leader committed to the vision of a healthy environment, not someone who, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said of Stepp, has a “chamber of commerce mentality.”

    EPA scientists are constantly in the field, investigating never-ending complaints of smokestacks spewing contaminants or businesses dumping pollutants into streams or lakes. EPA monitoring of petcoke mounds on Chicago’s Southeast Side led to stricter municipal regulations and eventual removal of the petcoke. Just in October, the EPA joined other agencies in seeking the cause of a mile-long oil slick on Bubbly Creek.

    We need that work to continue. Gov. Bruce Rauner should send a clear signal that environmental degradations won’t be permitted in Illinois. Businesses, too, should step up, as well as local governments and citizens.

    Stepp’s appointment makes it starkly clear that elections matter to the environment. In Illinois, whoever is elected governor next year will make appointments to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Pollution Control Board and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, all agencies that will make decisions about how our environment is to be protected.

    The stakes are high. This is not a time when we can afford to do favors for polluters.

    Read more:
    https://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/scott-pruitt-donald-trump-cathy-stepp-weakens-epa-fight-to-protect-environment-great-lakes-air-quality-drinking-water-wisconsin/

  5. Posted December 27, 2017 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    If this can be believed, 700 people have left the EPA since Trump took office.

  6. Kim
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Forgive me, as I’m not a hunter, but is killing baby deers a thing?

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