The administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2, which includes South Jersey, spent the past seven years shouldering responsibility for everything from Superfund sites to federal clean air and water laws and pesticide rules.
It’s a big job, especially in New Jersey, which has more Superfund sites than any other state.
But as a presidential appointee, Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck now must resign.
“Every regional administrator changes with the new administration,” she said. “All are legally required to resign by noon Friday.”
A new Region 2 leader has not been announced.
She said she hopes the Trump administration will follow the lead of past Republican administrations in supporting the EPA’s work.
She called Region 2, which includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and eight federally recognized Indian tribes, one of the strongest EPA regions in the country, with 820 professional staff and an annual budget of $650 million.
“My great hope is that people stay out of their way, and they continue to enforce environmental laws,” she said of the region’s staff members. “Let them ... tackle the really ressing issues of the day, which include water quality, climate change, solid waste disposal and cleaning up New Jersey’s toxic legacy.”
But both Trump and his EPA administrator nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, have said things that are cause for concern, Enck said.
Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, she said.
Pruitt said in a confirmation hearing Wednesday in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that he does not think climate change is a hoax. But his lawsuits against the EPA while state attorney general have many people worried.
“I appreciate the work Judith did on two key priority issues for us — the Passaic River cleanup and establishing long-term plans to reduce or eliminate combined sewer overflows,” said state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin.
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said Enck didn’t always agree with environmentalists, but there was always respect.
Enck was open to allowing the federal Superfund site at the former Shieldalloy plant on the Newfield/Vineland border to bury and cap its 50,000 pounds of low-level radioactive materials, while Sierra Club sided with DEP and wanted it removed, he said. The materials will be moved to an out-of-state disposal site.
“But that’s an argument among friends. Both wanted the site cleaned up,” Tittel said.
Protecting the environment shouldn’t be partisan issues, Enck said.
“Region 2 has fared very well with Republican administrations in the past. I hope that continues,” she said.
President Barack Obama’s decision to take the Atlantic Ocean out of consideration for future oil and gas drilling was particularly important for New Jersey coastal communities, Enck said.