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October 26, 2011

Steve Owens Announces His Departure from EPA

The ACTA Group

On October 25, 2011, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) Assistant Administrator Stephen A. Owens announced his resignation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In his message to EPA staff, Mr. Owens stated:

I am writing to tell you that, after more than two years of working closely with all of you to protect Americans’ health and environment, I have made the difficult decision to leave EPA. My last day in the office will be November 30, 2011.

As many of you know, my family has remained in Arizona while I have been working at EPA headquarters in Washington. Although I have been able to get home to see my family periodically, I have essentially been away from them for more than two years. After a lot of hard thinking, we have decided that it is time for me to come home. My wife needs her husband; my sons need their father; and I need them.

While I am very happy that I will be back with my family, I will miss all of you greatly. It has been a true privilege to work with so many incredibly talented and dedicated people who are doing so much to protect the health and safety of the American people and our environment.

I am extremely grateful to Lisa Jackson for her wonderful friendship and the remarkable vision and leadership she provides to this Agency. We are truly fortunate that she is EPA’s Administrator.

As I said earlier, I will continue working alongside you all through November 30. Administrator Jackson will share additional information about the transition process shortly.

In closing, let me thank you so much for the friendship and support you have given me during my time at EPA. Please know how much I appreciate you and all that you are doing for our country.


Since it is somewhat late in the President’s first term, it is unclear if the Administration will be actively seeking to fill the OCSPP Assistant Administrator position with a new appointee. In addition, the bitter partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill has lead to numerous holds on current nominees still awaiting Senate confirmation. OCSPP has a number of pressing issues, however, such as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for pesticide use, endangered species litigation, the re-review of atrazine, and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform (or how to revitalize the toxics program if no new TSCA legislation is likely). Without senior political leadership in place, the fate of these issues may become even more unpredictable as election year considerations become only more important as November 2012 draws near. As a result, it is possible the Administrationmay attempt to place a nominee if only to indicate that the OCSPP issues remain a priority and will not be lost in the larger dynamics of the 2012 election.