After four and a half years of this administration, you don't even get three guesses for this one.
If you were the Bush administration, who would you pick as the chief of enforcement for the Environmental Protection Agency? How about a partner from the lawfirm defending a company accused of (in the words of the special agent in charge of the EPA's environmental crime section in Denver) "one of the most significant criminal indictments for environmental crime in our history?"
According to the Baltimore Sun,
President Bush has nominated as chief of enforcement for the Environmental Protection Agency a partner in a law firm defending W.R. Grace & Co. against criminal charges in a major environmental case.But don't worry.
EPA employees were told late Thursday that Bush had nominated Granta Nakayama to lead the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, according to an EPA memo obtained by The Sun.
The Senate must approve the appointment.
Nakayama, 46, a specialist in environmental law, is a full partner in Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
The law firm is defending Grace against multiple criminal charges alleging that the Columbia-based company and seven of its current or former executives knowingly put their workers and the public in danger through exposure to vermiculite ore contaminated with asbestos from the company's mine in Libby, Mont.
Brian Pitts, spokesman for the law firm, said: "Nakayama has had no involvement in [Grace's bankruptcy or indictment] during his tenure at Kirkland."OK, I feel much better now.
Thomas Skinner, the EPA's acting head of enforcement, said Nakayama would avoid any conflicts.
"Even if he hasn't worked on the Grace projects himself, he will have to recuse himself from Grace and a number of other matters that Kirkland & Ellis have handled over the years," said Skinner.
"I'm very confident that the first thing he's going to do when he walks in that door is to sign a formal recusal letter and to make clear to everyone in the agency that he's to have nothing to do with W.R. Grace or other clients represented by [Kirkland & Ellis] and nobody can talk to him about these matters.
"I guarantee you it will happen," Skinner added.
Of course those nervous nellies who work for EPA need to chill:
Eleven EPA lawyers and investigators contacted yesterday refused to comment on the record, with most saying that any public comments would be "a career-ender."I'm sure they do.
However, they said the appearance of a conflict of interest involving EPA's top enforcement official is likely to have a chilling effect on pursuing investigations and actions involving Grace and any other companies represented by Nakayama's firm.
Skinner said he understands the concerns from those in the field, but added, "The agency has procedures for handling these potential conflicts."
We have ways of making you behave...
- W.R. Grace: Did These Guys Ever Tell The Truth?, March 4, 2005
- Asbestos: Cruel, Deadly and Uncompensated, February 19, 2005
- Libby Montana and Tort Deform: What's Wrong With This Picture?: February 15, 2005
- They Were Killing Us, They Were Killing Our Wives and Children: February 12, 2005
- W.R. Grace Goes To Jail: "Why not all the others?": February 10, 2005
- W.R. Grace Execs Indicted For Asbestos Coverup, February 8, 2005