GBB cites political pressure by GEPA Board - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GBB cites political pressure by GEPA Board

Federal receiver, Gershman, Brickner and Bratton has completed its review of communication between Guam Environmental Protection Agency staff, the board, and other government officials.  According to a report submitted to the District Court today, GBB found documents to substantiate claims of political pressure for staff to process another landfill permit application other than the one ordered by the federal judge.

A paper trail of political pressure, that's what federal receiver GBB said they found as they reviewed numerous documents and communication between Guam Environmental Protection Agency staff, Administrator Lorilee Crisostomo and the Guam EPA board. In a special report to the court, GBB noted specific problems such as concern and frustration within the agency about the lack of resources and feeling among the staff of being caught between conflicting priorities of the board and the orders from District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood.

The receiver referred to several emails between Guam EPA staff showing confusion about whether staff were to put their focus on the Layon landfill as was ordered by the District Court or whether they were to follow direction from the board that the "technical team for Guatali prioritize the review of GRRP's permit application."

The receiver also provided information and documentation to show the growing tension between GEPA Administrator Lorilee Crisostomo and the board.  Communication revealed the board pressured staff to meet the demands of the group advancing a landfill application for the Guatali location, and allegedly created an understandable perception among Guam EPA staff of intense political pressure to act on the permit application for the Guatali site.

It is also clear that the tension between the administration and the board escalated in January of this year when the board attempted to have Crisostomo sign a conditional permit.  When that didn't happen, board chair George Lai wanted her replaced with Liz Cruz from the Governor's Office.  Crisostomo however stood firm with her decision to have Ivan Quinata act as administrator for all GRRP related matters and was then threatened with termination.  The Guam EPA Adminsitrator however in previous comments to KUAM said she was unaware of any threats to terminate her.

GBB noted that to the credit of Crisostomo, and the Guam EPA staff, they did not "succumb to the pressure but instead stayed focused on their responsibilities under the Consent Decree."
They also noted the budgetary problems at the agency, specifically EPA's $600,000 request to the court.

In an order handed down this afternoon Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood made it clear that she will continue her close monitoring of the permitting process for Layon and ensure no further delay occurs. The court adding it "will not tolerate interference in this process as only 693 days of air space remains at the Ordot Dump".  She further ordered that the Guam EPA Administration, staff and board immediately report any effort by an individual or entity to interfere with the work necessary to complete the permitting of the Consent Decree projects.
Additionally she reminded each of the board of directors of their obligation under the consent decree and the orders of the court as well as the sanctions available to the court. A copy of her order was to be personally served to each member of the Guam EPA Board of Directors.

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