Judith Enck, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama as a regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will become a visiting scholar at Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law.
For seven years, Enck served as an EPA regional administrator covering New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, tackling issues such as nitrogen pollution, toxic compounds in schools, groundwater issues, Superfund sites and pesticide contamination.
She leaves the post as President Donald Trump takes office. Enck’s deputy administrator, Catherine McCabe, has been named acting EPA administrator in Washington, D.C.
Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has sued the EPA more than a dozen times, to head the agency.
Enck said she was concerned about what would happen next with the agency. “I’m worried about budget cuts” and EPA “walking away from its critical role related to climate change and resiliency,” she said.
It’s unclear how or if Trump plans to address climate change. As of Friday afternoon, the issue was mentioned on WhiteHouse.gov in terms of energy policy. The web posting said the administration was committed to “eliminating harmful and unnecessary polices such as the Climate Action Plan.”
That 2008 plan, which focuses on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, calls for increased research into climate change effects and impacts.
Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” also said energy needs must go “hand-in-hand” with environmental stewardship.
“Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority,” the plan said. “President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”
At Pace Law, Enck will hold symposiums, meet with law students and work on projects advancing the practice of environmental law and justice. Her position runs through May.
Dean David Yassky said Enck will help students connect how public policy and the law apply in the real world. “Her deep knowledge of policy making, government and environmental protection makes her an ideal candidate for the position,” he said.
In her time as regional administrator, Enck oversaw efforts to remove old lighting fixtures contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from 883 public schools in New York City and replace them with more energy-efficient fittings. PCBs are considered probable carcinogens and can damage the nervous, immune, reproductive and endocrine systems.
“Not only does it protect children’s health and teacher’s health, but it will save a lot on electricity,” Enck said.
She also was involved with granting $845 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for water infrastructure and other programs.
On Long Island, she pressured local officials to reduce nitrogen pollution from aging septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities. Reducing what goes into the waste stream and encouraging recycling were also priorities.
Walter Mugdan, who has been the director of emergency and remedial response, will serve as acting regional administrator. He has been with the agency more than two decades.