Environmental awareness and concern have been a part of the history of Louisiana, almost from the time of statehood in 1812. In the early 1800's, Louisiana established a statewide Health Department, the first in the country. Many problems with health were associated with the climate and with the fact that the Mississippi River was the main transportation corridor for Middle America. Diseases from other countries came by way of boats and ships, and annual flooding and living conditions together produced concerns for people's health. How people lived, the water that they drank, the sanitary conditions of their surroundings, and the general environment all contributed to the need for an agency that looked after the well-being of the people. Plague and yellow fever reinforced awareness of the living conditions and environment of the people throughout the 1820's through 1850's. The Union occupation of New Orleans in 1863 saw Gen. Butler ordering streets cleaned of sewage, garbage being hauled outside the city, and drinking water taken from unpolluted sources. The rest of the state was basically rural and followed the rule of taking drinking water from wells, dumping sewage in nearby streams and burning garbage.
In the early 1900's conservation became important as certain wildlife began disappearing, hardwood forests were cut down, and flooding by rivers and streams became more devastating. "Environmentalists" began demanding protected areas for wildlife, designation of protected forestlands, and proper channeling and leveeing of rivers and streams.
In the late 1930's, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DW&F) inaugurated a Water Pollution Control Division and initially two people were assigned the task of monitoring water quality due to fisheries activities within Louisiana.
In the early 1950's, an Air Pollution Division was assigned a role within the Louisiana Department of Health and began functioning with a staff of two people.
The early 1960's saw concerns for radiation control and a Radiation Control Division was created within the Louisiana Board of Nuclear Energy, reassigned to the Department of Health, and later reassigned to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This was also a small division and was primarily concerned with the low-level radiation, particularly x-ray machines in doctors' and dentists' offices.
With the passage of the National Environmental Protection Act in the late 1960's, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established, as was the President's Council on Environmental Quality.
In 1972, Governor Edwin Edwards decided that Louisiana's governmental structure needed to more closely track federal agency alignment and therefore ordered reorganization in state agencies.
The Legislative Session of 1972 saw passage of Act 460 forming the Governor's Council on Environmental Quality (GCEQ), however, the companion legislation organizing a State EPA failed. With the organization of the GCEQ, a four-person agency began working on coordinating environmental activities within Louisiana. It was soon learned that over 100 agencies held environmental responsibilities. However, the major agencies were the Department of Health and the DW&F.
In the early 1970's, the DW&F had the Water Pollution Control Division answering to the Stream Control Commission. The division staff had grown to 19 people. Likewise in the Department of Health, the Air Pollution Control Division answered to the Air Control Commission and had grown to a staff of 23 personnel. The Radiation Control Division within the DNR totaled 15 people. These four groups: GCEQ with four people, Water Pollution Control Division with 19, Air Control with 23 and the Radiation Control Division with 15, and the newly reorganized Department of Health and Human Resources’ (DHHR) 2½ people who had been identified as being responsible for solid waste were the total number of identifiable individuals working for environmental quality in the state in 1974. The 2½ solid waste people were primarily concerned with stable refuse, vector control (disease carriers – rats, mosquitoes, etc) and burning dumps, all activities that were health related. The telephone was answered at the New Orleans office, “Vectors and Vermin”!
In 1975, GCEQ combined with the technology transfer operations (T2) from the Division of Administration and was reconstituted as the Governor’s Office of Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (OSTEP). OSTEP began a concentrated effort to reorganize the state environmental concerns.
In 1977, a meeting was held by all participating state agencies and a committee was organized to formulate a reorganization bill to be submitted to the Legislature. The committee was directed by DNR Deputy Secretary James Hutchinson, chaired by B. Jim Porter, and included Hall Bohlinger, William DeVille, William Spell, William Mollere and Ned Cole. However, the DW&F and DHHR withdrew their support of the legislation when it was learned that DNR would be the domicile for the new environmental agency.
It was not until 1978, following the unfortunate death of Kirtley Maurice Jackson at the Bayou Sorrel Hazardous Waste Pit, that legislation concerning hazardous waste management was passed, and the Hazardous Waste Division was formed and placed in the Office of the Secretary in DNR.
In 1979, the Legislature passed Act 449 which formed the Office of Environmental Affairs (OEA) which was placed in DNR. Act 449 consolidated the Hazardous Waste Division and the Nuclear Energy and Radiation Control Division from DNR, the Water Pollution Control Division and the Stream Control Commission from DW&F, and the Air Quality Division, the Air Control Commission and the Solid Waste Division from DHHR
The Board of Nuclear Energy, the Air Control Commission and the Stream Control Commission were all consolidated into the Environmental Control Commission (ECC) which became the Board granting and denying permits and modifications.
January 1, 1980 saw the beginning of the DNR/OEA with B. Jim Porter as the Assistant Secretary. Five divisions were formed. In 1983 additional legislation creating the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) passed the Legislature.
On February 1, 1984, under Governor Dave Treen, the Department of Environmental Quality became a reality and Winston Day became its first Secretary.
After his inauguration in March 1984, Governor Edwin Edwards appointed the following to head the agency:
- Patricia Norton, Secretary
- B. Jim Porter, Deputy Secretary
- J. Dale Givens, Assistant Secretary Office of Water Resources
- Dr. Hall Bohlinger, Assistant Secretary Office of Air Quality and Nuclear Energy
- John Koury, Assistant Secretary Office of Solid and Hazardous Waste
In February of 1985, Greg Gasperez was named the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Air Quality and Nuclear Energy. The Superfund Division, called the Inactive and Abandoned Sites Division, was created and placed within the Office of Solid and Hazardous Waste. The Municipal Facilities Division was formed from the Construction Grants section of the Water Pollution Control Division and was placed within the Office of Water Resources.
Jim Porter left DEQ when he was named Secretary of DNR and Joy Bartholomew replaced him as Deputy Secretary. In 1987, Ms. Norton resigned as Secretary and the following appointments were made:
- Martha Madden - Secretary
- Dr. Hall Bohlinger - Deputy Secretary
- Gus Von Bodungen - Assistant Secretary Office of Air Quality and Nuclear Energy
In 1988, Governor Buddy Roemer was inaugurated and he appointed the following team to lead DEQ:
- Dr. Paul Templet - Secretary
- Joel Lindsey - Deputy Secretary
- Maureen O'Neill - Assistant Secretary Office of Water Resources
- Timothy Hardy - Assistant Secretary Office of Solid and Hazardous Waste
- Dr. Mike McDaniel - Assistant Secretary Office of Air Quality and Nuclear Energy
- Liz Megginson, Assistant Secretary Office of Legal Affairs
The Ground Water Protection Division was formed and placed in the Office of Solid and Hazardous Waste and was later moved to the Office of Water Resources. The Municipal Facilities Division was moved to the Office of the Secretary. The Inactive and Abandoned Sites Division was moved to the newly formed Office of Legal Affairs and Enforcement. In 1989, Ms. Megginson resigned from DEQ to work for Congressman Billy Tauzin and J. Terry Ryder was appointed Assistant Secretary for the Office of Legal Affairs.
In 1989 the Department saw major growth in its number of employees, growing from 360 to more than 800 employees. The Office of the Secretary expanded its services to include Local Programs, Public Participation and Policy and Planning.
In 1992, Edwin Edwards was inaugurated for the fourth time, and DEQ appointees were as follows:
- Kai David Midboe - Secretary
- William Kucharski - Deputy Secretary
- J. Dale Givens - Assistant Secretary Office of Water Resources
- Gus VonBodungen - Assistant Secretary Office of Air Quality and Radiation Protection
- Glenn Miller - Assistant Secretary Office of Solid and Hazardous Waste
- James Thompson - Assistant Secretary Office of Legal Affairs and Enforcement.
In 1994, Mr. Midboe resigned and William Kucharski was appointed Secretary. Filmore Bordelon was named Deputy Secretary.
In January, 1996, Governor Mike Foster was inaugurated and he appointed the following team to lead DEQ:
- J. Dale Givens - Secretary
- Dr. Hall Bohlinger - Deputy Secretary
- Gus VonBodungen - Assistant Secretary Office of Air Quality and Radiation Protection
- Mike Strong - Assistant Secretary Office of Solid and Hazardous Waste
- Linda Levy - Assistant Secretary Office of Water Resources
- Herman Robinson - Assistant Secretary Office of Legal Affairs and Enforcement
In 1997, the Office of Solid and Hazardous Waste was renamed the Office of Waste Services. The Ground Water Protection Division and the Inactive and Abandoned Sites Division were moved into the Office of Waste Services. The Department begun a two-year study, exploring ways to better deal with the public, manage information and process permits, complaints and enforcement issues. Mr. Strong resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Office of Waste Services in early 1998 to return to Shreveport city government and was replaced by Dr. James Brent.
In June 1999 the department entered a period of re-engineering. Governor Foster established an Advisory Task Force on Funding and Efficiency to assist in the re-engineering efforts. Re-engineering saw the “media” process – water, air, waste – replaced with a “program” process – permits, enforcement, remediation, etc. Responding to this challenge, DEQ staff realigned themselves into newly designated and legislatively mandated areas.
The Office of Environmental Assessment, headed by Assistant Secretary Dr. James Brent, handled remediation, engineering, geotechnical, planning and evaluation areas.
The Office of Environmental Compliance, headed by Assistant Secretary Linda Levy, handled field operations, inspections, complaints, surveillance and enforcement.
The Office of Environmental Services, headed by Assistant Secretary Bliss Higgins, handled permitting, public assistance and public participation programs.
The legal services area and other specialized programs were placed in the Office of the Secretary. The entire process merged former media-trained staff into single units working toward coordinated objectives, allowed unified permitting development, cross-media inspection training and a better utilization of resources.
In early 2002, Bliss Higgins resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Office of Environmental Services and was replaced by Linda Levy. Bruce Hammatt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Office of Environmental Compliance.
In August 2002, Secretary Dale Givens retired from state service. Governor Mike Foster appointed Dr. Hall Bohlinger as the eighth Secretary of DEQ. Robert Hannah was appointed Deputy Secretary.
In January 2004, Governor Kathleen Blanco was inaugurated and the following team was appointed to lead the agency:
Dr. Mike D. McDaniel - Secretary
Karen Gautreaux - Deputy Secretary
Wilbert Jordan - Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Assessment
Dr. Harold “Hal” Leggett - Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Compliance
Dr. Chuck Carr Brown - Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Services
Herman Robinson - Executive Counsel
Darin Mann - Press Secretary
In January of 2008, Governor Bobby Jindal was inaugurated and appointed the following team to lead the agency:
- Harold Leggett, Ph.D. - Secretary
- Vladimir Alex Appeaning, Ph.D. - Deputy Secretary
- Beau James Brock - Assistant to the Secretary
- Lou Buatt - Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Assessment
- Peggy Hatch - Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Compliance
- Cheryl Nolan - Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Services
- Herman Robinson - Executive Council
- Rodney Mallett - Press Secretary
In January 2010, Secretary Leggett resigned and there were changes in the management team. The Offcie of Environmental Assessment was combined with the Office of Environmental Compliance and the Office of Environmental Services. The team was as follows:
- Peggy M. Hatch, Secretary
- Vladimir Alex Appeaning, Deputy Secretary
- Beau James Brock, Assistant to the Secretary
- Paul Miller, Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Compliance
- Cheryl Nolan, Assistant Secretary Office of Environmental Services
- Herman Robinson, Executive council
- Rodney Mallett, Press Secretary
The Office of Management and Finance, headed by an Undersecretary, has traditionally handled administrative functions, personnel, budget, purchasing, information services, laboratories and other management areas. Undersecretaries for the Department from its inception have been:
- Jerry Hill 1984 - 1986
- Janet Smith 1986 - 1987
- Annette Sharp 1987 - 1988
- Cyril “Cy” Buchert 1988 - 1992
- Mary Mitchell 1992 - 1996
- Tom Hagan 1996 - 2001
- Thomas Bickham 2001 - 2004
- Cyril “Cy” Buchert 2004 - 2006
- Thomas Bickham 2006 to 2008
- Vince Sagnibene 2008 to present
In the 1980's, the Department was housed in various buildings. The agency headquarters was located in the DNR building until 1991 when the agency moved to a consolidated building on Bluebonnet Boulevard. In July 2003, the agency moved back downtown into the new Galvez Building, which is part of the Capital Complex.
The mission of the Department was originally envisioned to manage all environmental concerns. The initial argument was whether areas such as wildlife and fisheries, parks and recreation, wetlands, scenic streams, litter control, drinking water, and agriculture and forestry were considered environmental management areas. With the exception of litter control, which moved to DEQ in 1993, all of these areas have, by definition, remained in other departments responsible for their particular management and control. While certain responsibilities have been transferred to DEQ over the years, environmental concerns of other departments necessitate interaction with DEQ.
Emergency response is an area where the Department responds to citizens’ complaints and environmental emergencies. In 1981 the Department created the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) hotline, (225) 219-3960 so citizens and the regulated community could report environmental concerns.
The Department will continue to respond as the public becomes more aware of environmental areas such as recycling and litter control, air quality and toxics, sewage and industrial wastewater, wetlands and general hydrogeologic concerns. The Department has been fortunate to have many professional employees whose concern with Louisiana's environmental quality has made them experts throughout the United States, sought after as participants in conferences, seminars and symposia. The Department's greatest resource is its employees, and the expertise and dedication they bring to the job in protecting Louisiana's environment.