- The Ohio Environmental
Protection Agency is "a toothless tiger" - mismanaged,
disrespected by those it regulates and ruled by politics,
according to a survey of agency employees.
of respondents agreed that the agency's decisions are
"overly influenced by political considerations." In addition,
53 percent said the needs of individuals and businesses
are taking precedence over both the public interest and
the condition of Ohio's environment.
rule every decision," wrote one employee. "This is increasing
every day to the point that we do not protect the health
of Ohio's citizens."
More than a third
of Ohio EPA's 1,112 employees responded to the survey,
conducted in April by the Washington, D.C.-based Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility. A strong majority
of respondents had 10 years' or more experience at the
Nearly a third
said they or someone they know has been directed to ignore
an environmental law, regulation or violation in the past
a spokesman for Gov. Bob Taft, said: "I can tell you that
the governor does not condone any state employee overlooking
anything that's in Ohio's laws and regulations."
Heidi Griesmer defended the track record of director Christopher
Jones, pointing to statistics showing rivers are cleaner,
contaminated sites are fewer, and enforcement actions
She said the
agency has closed the troublesome Hardy Road landfill
in Akron, blocked development of a mall on protected wetlands
in Bainbridge Township and forced the contaminated Buckeye
Egg Farm to pay huge fines and spend millions to clean
up its operation.
"In an agency
this size, employees aren't always aware of everything
that's going on to protect the environment," she said.
six in 10 respondents to the survey disagreed that the
Ohio EPA "consistently takes enforcement action against
serious environmental violators."
wrote: "Staff is forced to be silent, even though they
know decisions are being made that are inconsistent with
the mission of the agency and the long-term integrity
of the environment."
blamed the Ohio legislature for weakening the agency.
A quarter said the agency lacks adequate resources, and
21 percent said the agency fails to effectively defend
the environment in legislative battles.
"The Ohio General
Assembly has little desire to protect the environment
- whether it is passing laws or providing an adequate
budget," wrote one employee.
the governor stands by the agency. "We feel we're taking
the proper steps to keep Ohio environmentally safe."
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