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Shame Is The Word!

Frederic A Eidsness Jr. Author Interview

Gorilla In The Closet shares your experiences working in EPA and how the agency has gotten to the point they are at, and what needs to be done to correct the path and restore public confidence in the agency. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

Reconciling my service as a naval officer and Vietnam Combat Veteran and the rejection I faced by my own generation upon my return to San Francisco Bay in 1969; and, fast forward, reconciling my service as a Presidential Appointee in EPA doing groundbreaking work and being again attacked by my own generation and those in congress who didn’t agree with me resulting in being marginalized. Also, even in 1981-83 my Vietnam Service meant nothing to them. After my forced resignation from EPA, I was completely marginalized by society. I couldn’t get a job. Shame is the word! I had to write this book to put both of these experiences in perspective, knowing in my heart, I had served honorably. I no longer feel shame but on a very personal level, heroic.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about the purpose of the EPA?

People don’t think about EPA at all. It is never discussed at the kitchen table. It is just another bloated federal bureaucracy and EPA has earned this non-reputation owing to its political nature, the structure and revolving door of leadership where there is no continuity or strategic thinking and attitudes of many in federal service. Congress was initially responsible for this state of affairs followed by EPA employees in their hierarchical attitude towards governance. Ergo, top down with limited real forward progress on environmental protection; in having all the answers but not knowing what the question is. In the past 52 years, EPA has retreated from a hopeful perch in our society, a social experiment if you will, to a mundane agency whose reach and effectiveness is limited. It is grossly mismanaged. All this can change and the book does more than leave bread crumbs to follow in how to do this! I offer legislation that is comprehensible.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

WE LOSE OUR DEMOCRACY IF WE DON’T HOLD OUR GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS AND THEIR LEADERS (LIKE ME AT EPA) ACCOUNTABLE. My profile of EPA, it’s anatomy and detached behavior, is a metaphor for almost all federal governmental agencies. Our future as a society in the face of Climate Change, rests with all of us. EPA plays a vital but limited role; but, less so than your city and county governments where there is real accountability and where they annually balance their budgets. Local politicians know the value of a dollar and they feel strictly accountable to their constituents. I hope my book sparks a focused bottom-up attack on climate change by asking the Environmental Elite to set aside their personal ambitions in the Beltway, and turn inward to their members and mobilize them to implement nationally funded local programs that reduce carbon emissions and better prepare for and manage the worst climatological effects using land use and police powers. Ironically, Reagan was on to something when he said, “Government (meaning the federal government) is the problem”. We can do better and by rebooting of EPA as an independent commission driven by engineering, technological and scientific values and goals, it can become the new NASA on which humankind that inhabits planet earth may depend for its very existence.

Author Website:


An eye-opening memoir for those interested in government service, politics, academia, environmental history, and environmental engineering.

Eric Eidsness, an environmental engineer and former EPA Assistant Administrator for Water appointed by President Ronald Reagan, diagnoses the EPA’s missteps over the decades leading up to today’s crisis of confidence. He proposes a solution that will reconfigure the EPA into the agency it was meant to be.

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In Gorilla In The Closet, author Frederic A Eidsness Jr. dissects and delves into the the ins and out of the Environmental Protection Agency to provide a better understand of the agency and to outline the dramatic restructuring that is needed to reestablish confidence in the agency. The author is deliberate in making this a nonpartisan issue, and develops a plan that I think both sides can get behind. Readers will see how both the Democratic and Republican parties want something for the agency that won’t enable it to properly do what it was meant to do.

The author has extensive knowledge of the EPA as he was a critical member of the agency and was involved in the ‘Sewergate’ scandal; which involved the head of the EPA at the time. The authors expertise is on full display throughout the book and provides significant insight that makes this book both informative and captivating.

There is a lot of information to take in, but readers who follow politics or government policy, even a little, will be able to understand the book. as the author does a great job of explaining things in detail. Those deeply interested in politics will be enthralled with this book as it gives readers a behind this scenes look at an agency in the midst of a scandal. Frederic Eidsness Jr. also shares a bit of history about the EPA, sharing information about its infancy back in the 70s, well before it became infused with politics.

With any book on politics I’m always wondering which side of the aisle the author falls on. The great thing about this book is that the author is able to remain nonpartisan throughout, focusing only on what will make the EPA better. I’ve learned that politics has shaped the EPA up to this point, but the author makes it clear that there is a path forward that can make the EPA better; which conveys a feeling of hope.

With the anecdotes, expert opinions, behind the scenes look, history and critical analysis of the agency the author is also giving the reader an understanding as to why the agency needs to be revamped before then delving into details on how to improve it. The guidance is clear, and the path forward is well defined in this informative book.

With climate change being a prevailing contemporary issue I feel Gorilla In The Closet is very relevant today. This is an enlightening book that provides a blueprint to make significant changes to an important agency at a critical time in history. The author tackles the subject with intelligence and a matter-of-fact tone that is refreshing.

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