New EPA Administrator Confirmed by Senate

The Senate has confirmed Stephen Johnson to be EPA administrator. The Senate voted 61-37 to end debate and override a “hold” by Sen.

The Senate has confirmed Stephen Johnson to be EPA administrator. The Senate voted 61-37 to end debate and override a “hold” by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.). Johnson was then approved by voice vote.

An EPA employee for nearly 25 years, Johnson becomes the first professional scientist to lead the agency. He had been acting administrator since January, taking over from Michael Leavitt, now secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.

In announcing the nomination last March, Bush said Johnson would use “sound scientific analysis” in making decisions.

Carper said he thought Johnson was well qualified to head the agency. But he said he placed a hold on the nomination because EPA had ignored his repeated requests for an analysis of how the president’s Clear Skies proposal for reducing air pollution compared to alternative Democratic proposals.

Johnson had earlier overcome opposition from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who threatened to delay confirmation if EPA did not end a program examining the extent to which children are exposed to household pesticides.

Johnson said the program had been mischaracterized by critics, but agreed to scrap it to end the controversy.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, accused Democrats of “shameful tactics.”

CWA Settlement

EPA, the Department of Justice, and the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) have reached a settlement with the Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to resolve Clean Water Act violations.

The consent decree filed in Louisville federal court requires MSD to make improvements costing more than $500 million, stop unauthorized discharges of untreated sewage into the Ohio River, and solve problems of overflows from sewers that carry a combination of untreated sewage and storm water. MSD also must pay a $1 million penalty and perform $2.25 million in environmental projects.

MSD operates six major regional wastewater treatment facilities, 21 minor treatment plants, and 3,000 miles of sewer lines. About 23% of these sewer lines are served by a combined system of single pipes that carry both untreated sewage and storm water to the Morris Forman Waste Water Treatment Plant. The rest of the lines carry untreated sewage separate from storm water.

EPA said the MSD sewer systems can be overwhelmed after rainfall, resulting in unauthorized discharges averaging 175 million gallons of untreated sewage from the separated system annually. In 2004 alone, however, MSD’s separated system experienced over 500 million gallons of unauthorized discharges of untreated sewage. Also, rains cause combined sewer overflows (or CSOs) of untreated sewage and storm water averaging of 4.5 billion gallons annually.

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