Anne Burford: The Left’s First Victim in the Era of Green McCarthyism

The late Anne Burford was an attorney and former Colorado legislator who also served in the Reagan administration as the first female Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  When first appointed by President Reagan and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1981, the EPA was the most out of control bureaucracy in the federal government.  Plants, factories and farms across the United States were closed or mired in costly litigation, fines and complaints by this agency’s career bureaucrats and their hard-line leftist green agenda.  For many employers, the EPA seemed more a tool akin to Thor’s Hammer, designed to strike down on capitalism than an agency genuinely interested in environmental protection. 

Taking her direction from President Reagan, Burford based her administration of the EPA on the downsizing of the agency and delegating some EPA functions and services to the individual States. She commissioned an internal review of the agency which uncovered what many had long suspected: That the EPA was over-regulating business and that the agency was too large and not cost-effective. During her 22 months as agency head, she cut the budget of the EPA by 22%, saving the taxpayers countless millions of dollars. She enacted new practices and guidelines which eliminated the thousands of frivolous actions that the agency was bringing and focused on the number of cases filed against real polluters and corporate law breakers. She also replaced most of the ideologically driven career managers with those who had real hands on experience in the market place.

In less than two years, Ms. Burford had transformed the EPA from a bloated, wasteful and politically driven institution to one of the most efficent agencies in the Federal Government. 

Prior to her government service, Ms. Burford, who was a former Fulbright Scholar,  had a broad range of legal experience, being first employed as an attorney with a bank trust department, then as the deputy district attorney in Denver, Colorado, and finally as a corporate attorney for Mountain Bell] Between 1976 and 1980 Ms. Burford served in the Colorado House of Representatives where she was voted as the “Outstanding Freshman Legislator.” 

While being praised by leaders in and outside of government for her skills as an administrator, Ms. Burford also became the target of a partisan and leftist smear campaign. The attacks represented a carefully coordinated campaign orchestrated by liberal members of congress, leaders of leftist groups and the liberal press.

In 1982, the Democratic controlled Congress, in a politically calculated and coordinated attack brought unabashedly contrived charges that the EPA had mishandled a $1.6 billion toxic waste Superfund which far exceeded any demonstrated need and for which some of was returned to the U.S. Treasury. In a politically motivated media campaign, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives demanded records from Ms. Burford which she refused as they violated the Separation of Powers clause of the U.S. Constitution. She did so with the full blessing and support of President Reagan. 

After a media feeding frenzy, the EPA turned the documents over to Congress several months later, after the White House abandoned its court claim that the documents could not be subpoenaed by Congress because they were covered by executive privilege. Soon after, Ms. Burford resigned her post, citing pressures caused by the media and the congressional investigation. Burford was again called on by President Reagan in 1984 when he appointed her to a three year term as chair of the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere.

Today farmers are put in jail for daring to plow over areas of their own land which are alleged to be a habitat for some endangered subspecies of rat. Some are rotting in prison over the filling in swamps on property which they have bought and paid for. Entire communities in the Northwest, which had relied on the timber industry for their citizen’s economic well-being, lay near deserted today – like modern ghost towns- because of the mistaken belief that a White Spotted Owl can only survive in “old growth forests.” This while “green” anti-capitalist policies justified in the name of the fictitious “man made global warming “scare have a virtual stranglehold on our economy.

Yet, for two brief years, someone had control of the EPA and held it accountable.  For her incredible efforts and contributions she was victimized by a massive campaign of character assassination by the same people who coined the term “McCarthyism.” Yes, Anne Burford was the first victim of the era of “Green McCarthyism. “  


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