, , ,

Former Wisconsin DNR Head Cathy Stepp To Lead Midwest EPA Region

Stepp Left DNR In August To Serve As Deputy Regional Administrator For Different EPA Region

Environmental Protection Agency headquarters
U.S. EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency

Former state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp has been appointed to be regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office that includes Wisconsin.

The appointment, made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, was announced Tuesday, and comes at a time when Taiwanese company Foxconn Technology Group has begun work on building a $10 billion flat-screen production plant in southeast Wisconsin that has raised concerns among environmentalists.

Stepp will oversee environmental protection laws and regulations for EPA’s Region 5 which includes Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Bill Davis, chapter director of the Madison chapter of the Sierra Club, fears Stepp’s promotion may not be good news for the environment.

“Cathy kind of showed in her tenure here just how much she doesn’t really have a background in the science behind a lot of what (the) EPA has to do, and working at the EPA level it’s going to be even more complex,” he said.

Davis said he also fears Stepp will sidetrack past EPA criticism of the DNR over the Clean Water Act and may not be a strong regulator of the Foxconn development in Racine County.

Kerry Schumann, executive director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters released a statement upon hearing about Stepp’s new appointment:

“Before Cathy Stepp’s appointment as secretary of the Wisconsin DNR, the agency was widely considered one of the best of its kind in the country. Under her watch, the agency’s environmental enforcement abilities were dismantled, its scientists kicked out, its website scrubbed of climate change information and, under the orders of the Walker administration, she shifted its focus from protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources to handing out favors to polluters. It makes sense the Trump EPA is looking for people like Cathy Stepp, people who are willing to sell out our environment to the highest bidder. The consequences will be stark. With environmental rollbacks like the Foxconn disaster, the pending removal of wetlands protections, and the elimination of all our air quality standards in the state, Wisconsin will also have fewer and fewer protections from the EPA to help maintain water we can drink, air we can breathe, land that doesn’t flood, and its public health.”

Wisconsin business leaders on the other hand praise Stepp as having a “can-do” attitude and a common-sense approach.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce attorney Lucas Vebber said based on Stepp’s work in the state, she’s a good choice.

“Secretary Stepp’s time here, I think was marked as a time of doing more with less at the (state) Department of Natural Resources,” Vebber said. “Our air quality is some of the cleanest its been in decades.”

Stepp left the DNR in August to serve as a deputy regional administrator for the EPA region that includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 with original reporting from WPR.