Monday, June 27, 2005

Attorney for Grace To Head EPA Enforcement

Fox Watching the Chicken Coop: Chapter 3,457

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.

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.
But don't worry.
Brian Pitts, spokesman for the law firm, said: "Nakayama has had no involvement in [Grace's bankruptcy or indictment] during his tenure at Kirkland."

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.
OK, I feel much better now.

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."

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."
I'm sure they do.

We have ways of making you behave...

Related Stories