The man responsible for overseeing a controversial groundwater investigation in Wyoming and other work by the top federal environmental watchdog agency will soon step down.
James Martin, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator who oversees Wyoming and other Rocky Mountain states, will resign from his post effective Friday, the agency confirmed via email. Martin resigned for “personal reasons,” an agency spokeswoman said.
The administrator — named to the position in April 2010 — was no stranger to controversy during his tenure, announcing his resignation just three weeks after coming under fire from two U.S. senators who questioned his use of an Apple me.com email account to conduct official business.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., asked the agency in late January to disclose emails from the account after a message surfaced from Martin’s me.com account to a high-ranking official of the Environmental Defense Fund. The message set up an official meeting.
The EPA came to Martin’s defense in statements made to the Star-Tribune in January.
“The regional administrator does not use his personal email account to conduct official business,” the agency said in a statement. “That Mr. Martin responded to one email sent to his personal email account to confirm a meeting that appears on his official government calendar does not alter that fact.”
The agency later added that the account in question is not a personal account, but rather an internal government account used to conduct official business.
Martin also oversaw the EPA’s regional office during one of the more controversial EPA investigations in recent memory: the agency’s look into whether hydraulic fracturing from natural gas production contaminated drinking water in an area just east of the town of Pavillion.
The agency in December 2011 issued a draft report tentatively linking the industry practice, used to free up trapped resources, to the contamination. Additional rounds of testing and study since have led to little resolution, and the agency recently pushed back a deadline for public comment until September.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t yet have any information on Martin’s eventual replacement.