Three Top Names Emerge As Likely Head Of Western EPA Office
Three frontrunners have emerged as potential Trump administration picks to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 office based in Denver.
Todd Parfitt, Patrick Davis, and Doug Benevento have been named by E&E News or confirmed by multiple industry sources to be under consideration for the top EPA job covering Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, and 27 Tribal Nations.
Working with the EPA Administrator, the regional administrators oversee EPA operations and implement all EPA programs within their region. There are 10 regional offices covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and overseas territories.
The office’s responsibilities go beyond desk duties for the agency, and a former Region 8 official said candidates should be prepared to both know the subject matter they are regulating and “be prepared” for duties that are critical to each region’s office.
Jim Martin, Region 8 administrator for the Obama administration, told Western Wire, “An EPA regional administrator should understand the statutes and be prepared for EPA disaster response responsibilities.”
Parfitt is currently the Director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. In an April letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt published by E&E News, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) called Parfitt a “distinguished public servant with extensive knowledge of environmental regulatory issues before the EPA,” and has served in the Wyoming DEQ office for many years.
“Equally important, Mr. Parfitt has firsthand experience with the economic burdens that occur when federal and state requirements are duplicative. He is well poised to identify these issues and support the EPA in advancing policies that both protect our environment and promote economic growth,” Barrasso wrote. Barrasso is the chairman of the Senate committee with oversight of the EPA.
Davis, a political consultant and Trump “beachhead” team for the agency, had at least two Congressional backers, Rep. Bob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.). Both submitted letters to the EPA, according to E&E News, supporting Davis.
“I am confident that he will be an asset to the agency. As a member of the administration’s “beachhead” team at EPA, Patrick has demonstrated he can work successfully to implement the Trump administration’s agenda,” Bishop wrote. “Patrick is a team player and works hard to seamlessly interface multiple levels of government, ensuring that national policy is right for the diverse regions across America. This is a valuable trait in any regional director.”
The letters were published following a Freedom of Information Act request by E&E News.
Benevento, Director of Energy Policy at Xcel Energy and former executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, has also been named, multiple independent sources confirmed.
This spring, the Colorado Mining Association submitted a letter of support for Parfitt, but Stan Dempsey Jr., president of the organization, said he had a long and productive relationship with Benevento, and valued Benevento’s previous leadership of the state agency.
“What is really important is to have someone to head the EPA regional office that has a wealth of experience as a state regulator.” Dempsey told Western Wire. “That is why CMA endorsed Parfitt. But Benevento certainly meets that criterion as well.”
“When it comes to a Region 8 Administrator, the President and Administrator Pruitt might consider a non-traditional candidate – someone who knows the issues but doesn’t have industry or special interest lobbying baggage,” said Amy Oliver Cooke, Executive Vice President of the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank in Denver, told Western Wire via email. A candidate should be “someone who has proven that he or she shares the Administration’s priorities of energy dominance and responsible environmental stewardship and can be a strong manager of a large agency.”
Cooke served as a member of the Trump administration’s EPA transition team following last November’s election. She hopes the next administrator will remember there are five other states outside of Colorado in the region, and not just focus on the region’s headquarters in Denver.
The possible Region 8 nominees come as the Trump administration begins placing other regulators in EPA regional offices across the country. Cathy Stepp, former top official for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, was named Principal Deputy Regional Administrator for Region 7, and acting regional administrator for the office until Pruitt names a replacement. The Region 7 office covers the key Midwestern states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
And at least two regional EPA offices will have their hands full with EPA disaster responses, including Region 4’s new administrator, who oversees Florida and other states impacted by Hurricane Irma.
Pruitt tapped Trey Glenn, former director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, as Region 4 Administrator in late August. On selecting Glenn, Pruitt said, “Mr. Glenn will help us carry out President Trump’s vision of creating a more streamlined and efficient EPA that focuses on the Agency’s core mission, while also providing more regulatory certainty to our nation’s businesses.”
Region 4 administers agency activities in eight states including Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.