Former Wisconsin regulator to lead EPA’s Chicago office
CHICAGO (AP) — Former Wisconsin regulator Cathy Stepp was named Tuesday as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Chicago, drawing praise from business groups and criticism from environmental activists fearful she will weaken enforcement of rules protecting the Great Lakes and air quality in the Upper Midwest’s industrial centers.
Previously, she served six years as director of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and was a Republican state senator from 2003-07.
As head of EPA’s Region 5, she will oversee operations in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
"Cathy Stepp’s experience working as a statewide cabinet official, elected official and small business owner will bring a fresh perspective to EPA as we look to implement President Trump’s agenda," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.
Henry Henderson, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest director, said Stepp’s record "fits nicely with the lax mode of enforcement favored by the Trump administration," adding that environmental groups will be "very, very busy" under her tenure.
A former homebuilder with no scientific background, Stepp was chosen by Gov.
Scott Walker to lead the Wisconsin natural resources department, where she oversaw a reorganization that included staffing cuts in its science and research bureau.
The department replaced some passages on its website describing humans as partly responsible for climate change, saying instead that scientists were still debating the matter.
The head of the EPA’s national employee union said Stepp, 54, is unqualified and has a history of favoring business interests over environmental protection.
Howard Learner, executive director the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the Wisconsin natural resources department under Stepp "turned back the clock on basic safeguards" of water and air.