Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary, Cathy Stepp has accepted the position of deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Cathy Stepp, a former Republican state senator, served as the DNR secretary since 2011 being the first woman to hold the position. Prior to that, she represented the state’s 21st Senate District as a Republican from 2003-2007.
Stepp will be based in the EPA’s Region 7 office which oversees Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and nine tribal nations.
Brad Mapes-Martins, associate professor said “There will be a lot of parallel issues in Region 7 as she dealt with in Wisconsin, such as agriculture. She was appointed to this position precisely because of she is perceived to have a bias towards economic growth over environmental protection, which is consistent with the record she has in Wisconsin.”
Governor Scott Walker released the following statement. “Cathy is a strong, trusted reformer who will serve the country well at the EPA. As DNR secretary since 2011, she has led an outstanding workforce committed to preserving and promoting our natural resources while placing a strong focus on customer service and common sense.”
“She has a customer-friendly approach but the problem is, who is the customer? The business that is asking for a permit or the citizens of the state who needs protection from the potential effects,” said Mapes-Martin.
The DNR referred fewer cases for prosecution to the attorney general’s office in 2016, DNR records show. The decline mirrors a large drop in financial penalties paid in settlements with the Department of Justice last year. 20 environmental cases prosecuted by the Justice Department in 2016 resulted in judgments of $449,253 — the lowest in 22 years, agency records show.
Mapes-Martin said, since Stepp was already decreasing environmental enforcement which in part makes her an attractive administrator as she is consistent with the approach the current administration is taking.
One measure — the number of notices of violations — has dropped from an average of 488 in the final four years of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s term to an average of 281 under Stepp during Walker’s first term, according to DNR records.
Kurt Thiede was appointed by Governor Scott Walker to be the Interim Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources as of Aug. 31, 2017 according to Wisconsin DNR website.
Her departure also comes as the DNR is taking on the oversight of a proposed $10 billion flat screen plant proposed for southeastern Wisconsin by Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese company that has already won exemptions from environmental rules from the Walker administration.