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Friday, February 23, 2007

A New Era of EPA Stonewalling

Posted By on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:39 PM

Chris Korleski: The new guy covering up pollution in Ohio
It was an exciting day when Governor Ted Strickland announced a change at the helm of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Since the agency's beginnings in the Days of the Burning River, it's motto has been, "It's not pollution until your kid's head start glowing." For once, maybe we'd get a real watchdog down in Columbus. We were also curious about the Ohio EPA's long-held policy of refusing to talk to Scene reporters. The rule started back in 2001, when reporter Sarah Fenske detailed how the agency stalled for seven years in cleaning up a chemical spill from a factory in Middlefield, all while nearby residents came down with cancers and neurological disorders galore. Through the years we haven't exactly done much to foster a better relationship. Most recently, we chronicled how the Ohio EPA decided to fix a toxic-waste-infested landfill . . . by putting a shopping center on top of it. With one of Strickland's guys running the show now, we wondered, would the agency finally quit acting like a crackhead trying to avoid a family intervention? Alas, it looks like it's going to be another four years of business as usual. Strickland's new appointee is Chris Korleski, whose last job was as a lawyer for Honda in Marysville. It makes perfect sense. While most governors would have chosen someone with, say, experience in protecting the environment, far better to tap someone who's spent his career exploiting environmental laws. When Korleski's appointment was first announced, we called him to ask if the policy of stonewalling our reporters would be reviewed. He assured us he would give the rule a fair glance, and get back to us once he was settled into his new job. But when he called today, his secretary told us he was "unavailable." And spokesperson Dina Pierce says the rule remains in effect. "I'm being told there's no plans to [change the policy]," says Pierce. Just in case you're still an optimist, consider this quote Korleski gave The Plain Dealer in January, outlining his priorities for the new job. "I will work to establish a common-sense approach to the regulatory process," he said, "ensuring that businesses receive permits in a timely manner and work to eliminate unnecessary, redundant and contradictory regulations." As for those of you with three arms growing out your ass and a house next to a chemical plant, we here the circus is hiring. -- Jared Klaus

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