A former homebuilder with no scientific background who was criticized as 'industry-friendly' by environmentalists during her tenure as the head of Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources has joined the Environmental Protection Agency.
Cathy Stepp, whose appointment was praised by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, will be head of the EPA's Region 5, encompassing the Midwest states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Stepp replaces acting Region 5 administrator Robert Kaplan, who took over the Chicago office after former chief Susan Hedman resigned in early 2016 amid criticism that EPA waited too long before stepping into the Flint drinking water crisis.
Stepp's leadership at the DNR saw cuts to staffing at the science and research bureau, as well as a sharp decrease in the number of pollution enforcement cases.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Stepp gave a 2015 speech in which she said her goal at the DNR was to shift the agency from a "prohibiting agency to a permitting agency, which is frankly what I thought we were supposed to be."
"Under her watch, the agency's environmental enforcement abilities were dismantled, its scientists kicked out, its website scrubbed of climate change information and, under the orders of the Walker Administration, she shifted its focus from protecting Wisconsin's natural resources to handing out favors to polluters," [Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters director Kerry Schumann] said.