Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Steve Owens, Head of EPA's Toxic Chemical Program, To Resign

The head of EPA's Office that handles toxic chemicals is resigning.  Steve Owens announced his resignation to staff yesterday and will leave as of November 30, 2011.  According to his email, Owens has "made the difficult decision to leave EPA" mainly to rejoin his family in Arizona, where they remained during his entire two plus years working in Washington DC at EPA headquarters.  Owens had previously been the head of Arizona's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

In his departure announcement, Owens thanked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for "her wonderful friendship and the remarkable vision and leadership she provides" to the Agency.  Similarly, in a statement from Jackson, the EPA Administrator thanked Owens for his contributions.  She noted that "his leadership has been vital to our efforts to assure chemical safety for our citizens and revamp our nation's outdated toxic substances standards."

Those standards remain in limbo at this point as the much anticipated TSCA reform legislation - an effort to modernize the 35-year old toxic chemicals law - has stalled in Congress.  Given the current actions of House Republicans to defund EPA and limit the Agency's authority even under the current TSCA law, plus the stalemate caused by the still year-away elections that could give control of the Senate to Republicans, it seems highly unlikely that any reform of TSCA is going to occur for many years.  While he doesn't mention it in his email, perhaps that is one of the reasons Owens has decided to relocate back to Arizona.

No information on possible replacements for Owens has been forthcoming, and any potential nominee would have to be confirmed by Congress, a prospect that is likely to be politically charged given the current climate.

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