Related topics

Anne Burford Now Critical of Reagan’s Environmental Record

December 6, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Anne Burford almost sounds like one of the environmental groups that used to flay her when she headed the Environmental Protection Agency and defended Ronald Reagan to the last ditch.

President Reagan has no ″commitment to the environment,″ Mrs. Burford said on NBC-TV’s ″Today″ show Thursday. ″I think it’s a question of benign neglect. ... I’m not at all comfortable with that.″

In her resignation news conference 21/2 years ago, she said, ″You guys haven’t printed it, but this president has a strong commitment to the environment, and so do I.″

In her TV appearance Thursday, Mrs. Burford was promoting her book, ″Are You Tough Enough?″ about her two years as EPA administrator at the outset of the Reagan administration. In the book she said, ″It appears to me the president and his close advisers are simply ignoring the Environmental Protection Agency and its many mandates.″

Mrs. Burford resigned in March 1983 after EPA had become the subject of six congressional investigations prompted by her refusal, on the president’s instructions, to surrender documents to House committees. She was cited for contempt of Congress, but the charge was dropped.

In the book, she said she advised that the documents ought not to be withheld. But she said she went along, over her better judgment, with a plan by Justice Department lawyers to raise a test case on the president’s right to do so.

White House spokesman Albert R. Brashear, who was EPA’s chief spokesman for a year after Mrs. Burford left, said: ″I think the president has a good environmental record of which we can be proud. That’s all I’ll say.″

Even environmental groups were slow to praise Mrs. Burford’s apparent change of heart.

Lynn Greenwalt, a vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, said he was not surprised to learn what Mrs. Burford said because ″the lady strikes me as out to get a little retribution.″

″She’s probably right as far as EPA is concerned when she was there. But who can say whether the president has a commitment to the environment? I think it’s probably unfair to characterize the whole administration as without commitment. Some do have it. But there’s no impulse.″

John McComb, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said it was probably the first time he ever agreed with Mrs. Burford and added, ″He really has no environmental policy. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say ’benign neglect.‴

Charles M. Clusen, deputy executive director of the Wilderness Society, said, ″It’s too bad she didn’t figure these things out when she was in office.″

Update hourly