The sudden resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s chief Superfund adviser won’t slow an EPA task force’s work speeding up waste site cleanups and helping surrounding communities, the ex-adviser told Bloomberg Environment.
“The task force is continuing to run as it has run,” Albert “Kell” Kelly, Pruitt’s liaison with companies and community groups near toxic sites, said in a May 2 interview.
Kelly said he left the Environmental Protection Agency on May 2. His departure came a week after two Virginia Democratic House members, Reps. Don Beyer and Gerald Connolly, asked the EPA’s inspector general to investigate Kelly.
Kelly is the latest top-level Pruitt aide to leave the EPA: former Secret Service agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, who led Pruitt’s security detail, recently announced his retirement and Samantha Dravis, an associate administrator of the EPA Office of Policy, also left the agency. The departures come amid scrutiny over Pruitt’s spending and ethics practices.
The Democratic lawmakers said Kelly lacked a background in environmental protection and cited media reports saying the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation banned Kelly from the banking industry last year.
Kelly, a former chairman of Oklahoma-based SpiritBank, was banned from banking and fined $125,000 last year by the FDIC under an agreement in which he neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing. Kelly has said the action stemmed from a single transaction in 2010.
Kelly declined to discuss his reasons for leaving EPA with Bloomberg Environment.
“It was a very, very hard choice, and I leave a part of my heart back there,” he said.
The EPA did not immediately respond to Bloomberg Environment’s questions about possible replacements for Kelly.
Task Force Work
Pruitt chose Kelly to head the agency’s task force to overhaul the Superfund program. The task force is working on more than 40 objectives to address long-standing issues with delays in cleanup and prolonged negotiation processes.
Kelly said political and career staff will visit those communities instead of him and work with companies to speed contaminated sites toward cleanup and redevelopment.
The task force is encouraging companies involved at Superfund sites to start designing cleanup plans as soon as the agency has determined the remedy, according to a May 1 task force progress report. The task force has also identified incentives for those companies to reuse Superfund sites, but has not yet released specifics.
The EPA’s Superfund sites are considered to be the most contaminated in the country.
In an April meeting, Kelly talked to community advocates who were concerned about the Coakley Landfill Superfund site in New Hampshire.
Kelly promised them he would visit the site, but he told Bloomberg Environment Veronica Darwin, Pruitt’s adviser for the office overseeing the Superfund program, EPA Region 1 Administrator Alex Dunn, and the Superfund director for that region are likely to visit the site instead.