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Ruckleshaus, William Doyle (1934 – ) American Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

William Doyle Ruckleshaus (1934 )
American former Environmental Protection Agency administrator

Ruckleshaus is known as a lawyer, a loyal member of the Republican party, and a skilled administrator who has been able to work effectively with environmentalists as well as industry representatives. His reputation also bespeaks his integrity in law enforcement and his ability to withstand pressure. However, Ruckleshaus is best known on the national level for his service as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1970 to 1973 and again from 1983 to l984.

Ruckleshaus was born on July 24, 1934 in Indianapolis, Indiana, into a renowned Republican family. He earned his bachelor of arts degree cum laude from Princeton University in 1957 and his law degree from Harvard University in 1960. His early career in the 1960s included the practice of law between 1960 and 1968 and service in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1967 to 1969. In 1969 he was appointed Assistant Attorney General for the United States by the newly elected President Richard Nixon. In 1970, President Nixon selected Ruckleshaus to become the first head of the recently created EPA. Under his direction, 15 environmental programs were brought together under the agency. Ruckleshaus left the EPA in 1973 to serve as acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and later that year, he was appointed Deputy Attorney General for the United States. In l974 he resigned from that position rather than comply with President Richard Nixon's order to dismiss the special Watergate prosecutor.

From 1974 to 1976 he practiced law with the firm Ruckleshaus, Beveridge, Fairbanks and Diamond, in Washington, D.C. Ruckleshaus has been criticized for going through the "revolving door" of government. While at his law firm he was the legal representative of several companies that contested rules made by the EPA while he was its administrator. From 1975 to 1983 he was Senior Vice-President for Legal Affairs of the Weyerhaeuser Company, Tacoma, Washington, a large timber and wood products company.

Ruckleshaus was again called to head the Environmental Protection Agency in 1983. Early in 1983 the EPA came under criticism from the public and from Congress regarding allegations of mishandling of the federal Superfund program. Allegations included lax enforcement against polluters, mishandling of Superfund monies, manipulation of the Superfund for political purposes, and conflicts of interest involving ties between EPA officials and regulated businesses. The allegations and the ensuing investigation led to the resignation of 21 top EPA officials including its administrator, Anne Burford Gorsuch.

Upon Gorsuch's resignation in March 1993, President Ronald Reagan asked Ruckleshaus to serve as interim EPA administrator. He agreed to do so, serving until the appointment of his successor Lee Thomas in November of 1984. During this second period of service as the EPA's top administrator, Ruckleshaus used his experience, his skills as an administrator, and ability to work with industry and environmentalists to stabilize the EPA. He succeeded in quelling much of the criticism being leveled against the agency.

After leaving the EPA at the end of 1985, Ruckleshaus joined the firm Perkins Coie in Seattle, Washington. He has served on the boards of directors of several major corporations and on the board of advisors for the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.

In l989 he was named chairperson of Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc. (BFI) and, as of 1997, he continues to hold that position. BFI is the world's second largest waste management firm after WMX Technologies (Waste Management, Inc.) and owns and operates substantial hazardous and non-hazardous waste-disposal facilities throughout the states. When Ruckleshaus took over as chairperson, BFI had been cited in various lawsuits related to its operations. BFI has been making steady progress since 1989 in obtaining required permits. Two major lawsuits against BFI were also settled under Ruckleshaus leadership in 1996. The U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division had alleged that BFI and WMX had used long-term contracts to keep competition out of certain states. Thus, over the past eight years, Ruckleshaus has been gaining substantial experience as the leader of a major waste disposal business.

In 1995, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) honored Ruckleshaus on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the U.S. EPA by presenting him with the 1995 ELI award. The ELI presents its award annually to a lifelong leader in environmental protection who represents the highest ideals of service.

[Paulette L. Stenzel ]


RESOURCES

PERIODICALS

"EPA: Ruckleshaus Bows Out." Newsweek (December 10, l984): 39.

"Government's Pollution Fighter." New York Times (April 12, 1973): 22.

Ivey, M. "Can Bill Ruckelshaus Clean Up Browning-Ferris' Act?" Business Week (October 14, 1991): 46.

King, Seth S. "Return of First E.P.A. Chief." New York Times Biographical Service (March l983): 372.

Simon, R. "Mr. Clean's New Mess." Forbes 146 (November 26, 1990): 16667.

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