How Much Influence Did Phony, Convicted EPA Leader Have Over Environmental Policy?

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Senate Republicans issued a report Wednesday targeting the influence convicted fraud John Beale, who stole $900,000 from the government and lied to EPA coworkers about having a fantasy dual life as a CIA agent, had over the agency’s far-ranging clean air regulations – regulations that affected millions of lives and billions of private-sector dollars.

The report alleges that Beale, the highest-paid employee working at the EPA before his staged retirement in 2011 (he continued receiving pay and benefits well into 2012), played a lead role in shaping government emissions standards during his stint as senior policy advisor in the Office of Air and Radiation.

Beale helped to write the Clean Air Act in 1990 and began directing the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate emissions policy efforts in 1995. In that role, he oversaw the writing of policy that, according to Senate Republicans, forced the closure of coal plants and put a lot of people out of work.

“Today’s report connects the dots between John Beale and the numerous air regulations that he’s responsible for, regulations with a lasting impact that are costing many Americans their jobs and hard-earned wages,” said Senator David Vitter (R-La.), the ranking Republican in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Despite having no scientific or policy credentials, Beale was recruited into the EPA in the 1980s by a friend from his college days, Robert Brenner, who worked at the agency.

“Rather than recruit someone with the requisite experience, Brenner sought out Beale in what appears to be a decision based solely on their personal friendship rather than any experience or credentials,” the Senate report observes.

Responding to the report, EPA officials defended the environmental policies written under Beale’s guidance. Beale “was just one of a large number of people from a number of disciplines across the Agency who provided input on those rules,” EPA spokeswoman Elisha Johnson told The Washington Times. “The standards followed the routine open, transparent and public process, providing opportunities for public and interagency review and comment prior to their finalization.”

Beale was sentenced to two years in prison in December of 2013. He admitted to investigators that he had, while working at the EPA, successfully taken off work for months at a time by relying on a fabricated story about his important work as a CIA operative to deceive his peers at the EPA. He announced his retirement in 2011 and was feted at a lavish yacht party, but somehow remained on the payroll months after he stopped coming to work.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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