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Top EPA lawyer to step down

Top EPA lawyer to step down
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Matthew Leopold, the top lawyer at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said in a letter on Thursday that he will resign. 

“Today, I'm announcing my intent to step down as General Counsel of EPA to return to private practice. To serve the American people in this critical role for more than two and a half years has been a tremendous honor,” Leopold wrote to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate MORE

Following Leopold's departure, Deputy General Counsel David Fotouhi will become the agency's acting general counsel, according to EPA spokesperson Molly Block. 

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Politico first reported on the top lawyer’s exit. 

Leopold added in his letter to Wheeler that he is “proud of the legal record [the Office of General Counsel] has defending EPA regulations that balance essential environmental protections with impacts to the U.S. economy.”

Last month, the lawyer wrote an op-ed claiming that the agency had won two-thirds of cases that challenged “significant environmental actions” taken by the administration. 

Other analyses, however, paint a different picture. 

A New York University analysis found that the Trump administration was “unsuccessful” in defending its policies in 85 percent of the environment, energy and natural resources cases it analyzed, however, many of these cases were not litigated by the EPA. 

Leopold, who has been with the EPA since 2017, previously worked in privacy practice in Florida. He also served as the general counsel for Florida’s Department of Environment Protection and as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Wheeler praised Leopold’s work in a statement on Thursday. 

“His work has ensured the lawful implementation of critical regulations that not only protect human health and the environment, but reduce unnecessary and burdensome red tape that hinders economic growth and innovation,” the top EPA official said.