Environment

A former Environmental Protection Agency official has called on the EPA administrator in charge of Kentucky to step down after a grand jury indicted him on ethics violations earlier this week.

Obama-era Regional Administrator Judith Enck said EPA Southeast Regional Administrator Onis “Trey” Glenn is going to be too busy mounting a legal defense to effectively run the regional office.

“I mean I think he has to resign immediately because he has no credibility and it’s a real moral hit for the staff in the regional office,” Enck said Friday. “So either acting administrator [Andrew] Wheeler should fire him or he should step down by day’s end.”

Regional administrators are among the most important positions within the EPA, Enck said. They are the public face of the agency in charge of hundreds of staff, multi-million dollar budgets and have enormous decision-making authority, she said.

The public especially relies on the EPA in regions where state governments are not always as aggressive as they should be when it comes to environmental enforcement, Enck said. Having an ethically compromised regional administrator loosens oversight across the region, she said.

“I think in a state like Kentucky if they are not strictly enforcing the environmental laws, they no longer have to worry about the EPA looking over their shoulder,” Enck said. “So what it really means for the people of Kentucky is more pollution in their lungs, in their drinking water, more carbon emissions contributing to climate change.”

Glenn, who oversees EPA enforcement for eight states including Kentucky, was indicted for multiple violations of Alabama’s Ethics Act, according to AL.com. Charges include use of office for personal gain, receiving money in addition to what’s received in an official capacity and soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist.

Glenn was indicted alongside former business partner Willie Scott Phillips. AL.com reported Glenn and Phillips worked with a coal company to stall the cleanup of a neighborhood north of Birmingham. A 2013 investigation there found levels of arsenic and other contaminants that could increase the risk of cancer for people living in the community, according to EPA records.

Glenn denied the charges in a statement provided to the Associated Press.

“The charges against me are totally unfounded, and will be vigorously defended,” Glenn told the Associated Press.

An EPA spokesman for Kentucky and Tennessee referred WFPL News to EPA officials in Washington D.C., who did not return requests for comment.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.