Gade's work had won praise

By Michael Hawthorne

Chicago Tribune staff reporter

11:10 PM CDT, May 1, 2008

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Five months ago, an EPA official gave Mary Gade a performance rating of "outstanding." On Thursday, the same man told her to quit or be fired. She chose to resign.

A former corporate attorney, Gade led the Illinois EPA under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who said he knew her as a team player who worked diligently to broker agreements between business interests and environmental groups. "She is very committed to the environment, but she's not a fanatic," he said.

As head of the Midwest EPA office, Gade won praise from environmental groups.

When BP planned to dump more pollution into Lake Michigan from its Whiting, Ind., refinery, Gade convened a special hearing that brought together regional leaders and BP representatives to discuss potential solutions. BP ultimately agreed to abide by its previous, more stringent water permit.

Gade also blocked a new water permit for the U.S. Steel mill in Gary until Indiana officials took steps to ensure it dumped less pollution into a Lake Michigan tributary.

But in the Saginaw area, Gade's actions against Dow outraged many local officials. "In 20 years of public life I have never encountered a more unprofessional, vindictive and insulting government official," said U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), whose wife is a former Dow attorney.

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