No One in Charge at EPA Office Overseeing Water Safety as Nominee Waits more than 3 Years for Confirmation

Monday, August 04, 2014
Ken Kopocis

As of now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no one in charge of making sure the nation’s drinking water is safe and that its waterways are clean and safe for wildlife. That appears to be just fine with many members of the U.S. Senate.


Ken Kopocis was nominated by President Barack Obama to head the EPA’s Water Office in February 2011 and has been waiting for confirmation ever since. Now, Nancy Stoner, who has been acting as chief of the Water Office since then, is leaving the EPA because the law limits how long a temporary leader can hold office…and no one will be in charge.


Part of the reason for the failure to confirm Kopocis is the gridlock in Congress and some senators’ antipathy toward the EPA. “We have one nominee who deals with making sure the water we drink and the air we breathe is pure. He’s been waiting almost 890 days because they don’t like that agency. It’s that fretful Environmental Protection Agency,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a November 21 news conference. “It’s an undeniable fact that the obstruction we’ve seen in recent years is something altogether new and very, very different.”


Kopocis’ case goes deeper than that. He has taken heat from senators on both sides of the aisle for a rule he helped draft that would define which streams and lakes would fall under EPA protection, according to Nick Juliano and Annie Snider of E&E. Eight Democrats, including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, joined Republicans in opposing that rule before it was even completed. “Today’s proposed rule by the EPA represents yet another example of this agency overreaching and stepping outside of its bounds without thought to the economic consequences of its actions,” Landrieu said. “This decision lacks common sense and will hamper our nation’s efforts to increase domestic energy production, create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and break the oppressive grip of tyrants and dictators across the globe.”


Other Democrats who opposed the rule are Mark Begich of Alaska, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Begich, Hagan, Pryor and Landrieu are all up for re-election this fall.


Democratic leaders insist that it’s not members from their own party who are holding up Kopocis’ confirmation. “We don't seem to be able to move him quickly because the Republicans are being very difficult,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

EPA Water Office Left Rudderless By Senate Inaction (Nick Juliano and Annie Snider, E&E)

Why EPA Suddenly Doesn’t Have Anyone Running The Office That Protects Our Waterways (by Jeff Spross, Think Progress)

Statement of Ken Kopocis Before Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (pdf)

EPA Accused of Fracking Oversight Negligence (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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