President Trump recently nominated Susan Parker Bodine to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”). OECA is responsible for coordinating the enforcement of federal environmental laws under EPA’s authority. OECA acts through a combination of compliance assistance, administrative enforcement and, in partnership with the US Department of Justice, civil and criminal enforcement.
If confirmed as OECA’s assistant administrator, Bodine would bring substantial experience to the office. She has nearly three decades of experience in environmental law. Bodine currently serves as chief counsel for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, where she oversaw the recent overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act. Prior to that, Bodine was in private practice at a law firm in Washington, D.C. She previously spent time as staff director of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, and was assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response—since renamed the Office of Land and Emergency Management in 2015—during President George W. Bush’s administration.
While Bodine’s diverse experience indicates deep familiarity with OECA and its mission, it is too early to tell what her tenure at OECA would look like, if confirmed. For example, at one point in early 2017, the Trump Administration was reportedly exploring the option of eliminating OECA and sending responsibility for enforcement back to the media-specific offices (e.g., the Office of Air and Radiation would be responsible for nationwide air enforcement). Regardless of the status of that effort, the Trump Administration has announced its aim to re-focus EPA’s enforcement efforts on programs not delegated to the states. With a refocused role for OECA, the next assistant administrator may also choose to revisit the national enforcement initiatives selected by the prior administration in 2016 and reevaluate EPA’s Next Generation Compliance strategies, which were a significant initiative pursued by the office during the prior administration.
Furthermore, there is uncertainty about OECA’s budget in fiscal year 2018 and beyond. As we noted in a previous post, President Trump’s budget “blueprint” for the 2018 fiscal year (which outlines the White House’s fiscal priorities) would sharply decrease EPA enforcement by cutting OECA’s budget by $129 million from the previous year’s levels—a roughly 23% decrease. Congress’ recent spending measure to fund the government through 2017, however, declined to cut EPA’s enforcement budget, and instead left OECA’s funding levels from the previous year largely intact. If confirmed, Bodine will play a large role in developing OECA’s budget for fiscal year 2018, which will provide more evidence of her goals and priorities in leading OECA.