Environmental Justice/Title VI Personnel Change at EPA

Inside EPA reported on Thursday that Rafael DeLeon, currently the director of the Office of Civil Rights, is leaving his current position and taking a new job as director of the Office of Site Remediation Enforcement within the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), led by Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles.  I am rather sad to see Rafael move on.  It will also mean some transition and delay in Office of Civil Rights’ important Title VI work.  (For those readers unfamiliar, EPA work under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act has been quite controversial; even though much progress has been made under Administrator Jackson on these issues, Title VI advocates have also continued to push hard for more and faster agency action.)

According to the Inside EPA article, the announcement of Rafael’s departure (an email from Cynthia Giles, whom I incidentally saw at a workshop last week) did not come with a statement who would head up the Office of Civil Rights in the interim, while a search for a permanent replacement for Rafael is ongoing.  But it seems likely that Helena Wooden-Aguilar, currently the Assistant Director of that office (if I recall her title correctly) and who is most directly responsible for the Agency’s external civil rights work, especially external compliance by state and local governemnt recipients of EPA funds with Title VI requirements, is likely to take on more responsibility in this regard.  She’ll be terrific, I know (not only because I worked with her previously and had her as a student at Vermont Law School).  Nevertheless, when I spoke to one lawyer from the Title VI advocacy community about this personnel change, he expressed concern about the likely disruption this might mean for progress on Title VI.

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