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Agency chief set to retire

No. 2 pitched for environment post

By Aziza Musa

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 4:28 a.m.

Teresa Marks, director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality since 2007, will retire from the position Sept. 30, the agency announced Wednesday.

Marks, 56, is stepping down from the position before the end of Gov. Mike Beebe's two-term administration. She handed down her notice to the governor's office within the past week and recommended the agency's deputy director Ryan Benefield, 40, to take the helm in her absence, the governor's spokesman Matt DeCample said.

"The only reason is my husband," Marks said of her early retirement from the agency. "I promised him I would take off a few months so we could travel."

The couple plan to first visit their son, who is studying abroad for his junior collegiate year in London. Afterward, Marks said she doesn't have any plans.

"I'll probably go back to work somewhere because I like to work," she said.

Marks, who currently earns $128,960 annually, said she doesn't yet know where she might seek employment.

Beebe tapped Marks to head the department in 2007, after working with her in the attorney general's office. Just before the move, Marks led the Public Protection Division at that office, which included some environmental work.

Marks' leadership abilities and "the way she conducts herself" on the job led Beebe to make the appointment, DeCample said, adding that she was a "tenacious but fair person."

"Whether working to protect our environment or our consumers, Teresa has spent her career providing dedicated service to Arkansas," Beebe said in a statement. "She was one of the first appointments I made in my administration, and she will leave a team in charge at ADEQ that is well-prepared to continue her fair and measured approach to the job."

During her tenure, Marks oversaw the implementation of permits regulating wastewater ponds for drilling sites in the Fayetteville Shale, DeCample said.

Marks learned that there were no permits affecting the ponds at the time, and once the department began issuing permits, that some firms weren't maintaining the ponds.

"I was pleased with the way we brought all the stakeholders together to come up with the permits," she said.

Under Marks, the agency shut down nearly all land farms, or facilities that stored waste from natural-gas drilling. The Environmental Quality Department initially permitted the land farms, but revoked or changed many of the permits after agency officials learned the land farms were not abiding by the permit terms, she said.

At the height of drilling in the area, there were about 15 land farms, she said. Now, there are only two or three, she said.

Currently, the Environmental Quality Department is working on a plan to implement a federal proposal that would place new standards on existing power plants, she said. The proposal, known as 111d, would cut down on carbon emissions for existing power plants.

The state agency is holding stakeholder meetings every other month in hopes of a consensus among all the groups on how to implement the proposal, she said.

"[Marks] is pretty much unfailingly pleasant," said John Chamberlin, a member of the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission. "She almost always has a lot of pressures on her. But she stays at a let's-work-this-out mode."

Both Chamberlin and Marks said they believe the transition to a new interim director will be seamless. Tammera Harrelson, who is currently the agency's chief of the legal division, will fill Benefield's deputy director position in the interim.

"I have no doubt Ryan is going to do an excellent job as director," she said. "I don't anticipate there will be any hiccups."

Metro on 07/31/2014

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