Lawmakers Seek Answers on Gade Resignation

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for answers about the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Mary Gade, formerly EPA's regional administrator for the Midwest.

"As you know, Congress and the American people expect EPA to enforce vigorously our public health protections -- and to preserve the integrity of the enforcement program by excluding politics from such activities," the senators wrote in a letter May 13 to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Against the backdrop of allegations of political intervention in EPA decision-making that have been aired at recent hearings before this committee, as well as similar allegations that we have heard from EPA staff and seen widely reported in the media, it is important for there to be a full explanation of the circumstances surrounding Ms. Gade's allegedly forced resignation."

The Chicago Tribune reported that two top aides to Johnson demanded that Gade resign or be fired by June 1, 2008. She has since submitted her resignation and is currently on administrative leave.

According to the newspaper story, Gade believed her forced resignation was due to her efforts to push Dow Chemical Company to clean up dioxin contamination in Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron stemming from its Midland, Mich., plant. The paper also reported that officials from Dow Chemical had met with EPA officials in Washington in January 2008 because they were unhappy with Gade's approach, and that Gade's handling of this issue became the subject of criticism from her superiors in Washington.

Sen. Whitehouse and others raised the issue of Gade's resignation at a hearing before an Environment and Public Works subcommittee. George Gray, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development, declined to answer questions, saying the agency does not discuss personnel matters.

The Boxer-Whitehouse letter requested a response within 10 days as well as requests for relevant documents, with responses requested within two weeks. The letter seeks, among other things, information and documents on the basis for EPA's decision to ask Gade to resign and whether the agency discussed that decision with officials from the White House or from Dow Chemical; the senators also asked for copies of Gade's most recent performance evaluation.

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