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Obsessing Over Succession at EPA

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Obsessing Over Succession at EPA

Fourth Rewrite of Doomsday Replacement Roster at Non-Cabinet Agency

Washington, DC — Someone over at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must be preoccupied with ensuring continuity should the unthinkable occur, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Earlier this month, President Barack Obama issued a new Executive Order, the second of his tenure, specifying the exact chain of succession should the EPA Administrator and Deputy Administrator both die, resign or become incapacitated.

On August 12th, the President issued a new “Executive Order of Succession within the Environmental Protection Agency” superseding his previous EO on the subject of May 21, 2012. That prior EO listed 13 officials in an order of succession should the top two EPA positions be vacated, starting with the EPA General Counsel and ending with the Deputy Regional Administrator for Region II (New York and New Jersey). The new EO lists 16 officials, with the first eleven the same as the previous order but adds the –

  • Midwest Regional Administrator (Region 7) while eliminating the Rocky Mountain Regional Administrator (Region 8) from the 12th slot on the list;
  • Principal Deputy General Counsel as 13th in order; and
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Enforcement & Compliance Assurance plus the Great Lakes Deputy Regional Administrator (Region 5) at the 14th and 16th slots, respectively.

Not only was this Obama’s second Executive Order on EPA succession but the fourth overall, going back to 2002. On August 12th (aka, Freaky Friday), Obama also issued new EOs on the succession order for Treasury and Veterans Affairs plus presidential proclamations on the succession order for the Office of Personnel Management and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“These morbid yet oddly specific Presidential actions tinker with scenarios which have never occurred and likely never will,” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that this latest burst of actions comes in the waning months of this presidency and may be revisited still again in the next administration. “Nor is it likely helpful that in the event of a nuclear attack or other cataclysm befalling the nation’s Capital, 13 of the 16 listed replacements to run EPA are also based inside the Beltway.”

Ironically, the order of succession for EPA is as long as the order of succession for the President and Vice-President of the U.S. (actually there are 17 positions in the presidential line of succession but Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is not eligible because she is not a natural born U.S. citizen).

“What makes this even sillier is that in spite of this elaborate listing, the President still retains the prerogative to designate whomever he or she wants to be acting EPA Administrator,” Ruch added, noting that despite his reputation for unilateral executive actions, President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any president in the last 20 years and fewer than any two-term President since Ulysses S. Grant. “Given all of the challenges facing the country, this seems to be an awfully marginal use of official time.”

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See the new Executive Order

Compare the rescinded 2012 Executive Order

View the statutory order of succession for President and Vice President of the U.S.

Look at Obama Executive Order ranking