The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the selection of Ben Scaggs as the Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program. In his new role, Scaggs will be responsible for overseeing a broad program designed to facilitate collaborative actions to protect, maintain, and restore the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico in ways consistent with the economic well-being of the region.
A native Mississippian, Scaggs began his career working on Capitol Hill for the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives then transitioned to work as a legislative assistant for Congressman G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery representing Mississippi's 3rd District. After completing a Master's degree in Public Administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he worked for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. He joined EPA in 1991 and currently serves as EPA’s Office Director overseeing the Agency's operation in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, which is the largest agency presence outside of Washington, DC. Over the course of his 20 years at the agency he has worked in the Office of Air and Radiation and as an acting Enforcement Branch Chief, in Region 4.
The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The program is financially supported by the EPA and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States.
Founded on the principles of partnership, science-based information, and citizen involvement, the Gulf Program joined the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay Programs as flagships of the nation’s efforts to apply an adaptive management approach to large coastal freshwater and marine ecosystems.
“The Gulf of Mexico is a vast and productive body of water that is of tremendous value in ecological, economic, and social terms.” said EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner. “We will look to Ben to help us to continue in our efforts to ensure that the gulf flourishes in all its natural richness and variety, while embracing the needs and desires of its people.”
More than 60 percent of America’s waters drain into the gulf, creating both large opportunities and challenges. In addition to its tremendous ecological, economic, and social value, the gulf is home to magnificent beaches, critical wetland habitats, some of the most productive fisheries in the world, and a quarter of U.S. domestic natural gas and one-eighth of its oil.
According to Gwen Keyes Fleming, EPA Region 4 Administrator, the success of the program lies in the partnerships that span a broad range of national, local, and regional environmental concerns.
“The Gulf of Mexico Program reflects upon 20 years of collaboration and environmental accomplishments to the benefit of the gulf communities," said Keyes Fleming. “Under Ben’s leadership I expect that spirit of collaboration to continue as we strive to meet the challenges of a thriving Gulf Coast economy, balanced with our mission of protecting human health and the environment.”
With so many diverse partners working together to enhance the area, EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz echoed the importance of strong leadership, collaboration, and productive relationships in creating a healthy and resilient gulf.
“America’s renewed interest in protecting the Gulf in the aftermath of the Deep Water Horizon incident reminds us of the importance of the Gulf of Mexico Program and its past and future work. Ben has close ties to the gulf region including family on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well as in Texas and Florida. I am confident Ben's passion and leadership skills will prove invaluable in the success of the program,” said Armendariz.
Scaggs will assume his new duties on April 23, 2012.