Accusations follow EPA's ouster of California regional boss

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2018, file photo, Mike Stoker regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency directs speakers during a public hearings on the Trump administration's proposal to roll back car-mileage standards in a region with some of the nation's worst air pollution in Fresno, Calif. Stoker said he got a call Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, from senior agency officials in Washington telling him to resign. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2018, file photo, Mike Stoker regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency directs speakers during a public hearings on the Trump administration's proposal to roll back car-mileage standards in a region with some of the nation's worst air pollution in Fresno, Calif. Stoker said he got a call Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, from senior agency officials in Washington telling him to resign. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency abruptly pushed out its top regional official for California and other points West, touching off an unusual public dispute between the two over the reason why.

Mike Stoker, the EPA’s chief for California and other far West states and territories since 2018, said he got a call Wednesday from senior agency officials in Washington telling him to resign.

The flare-up marks the latest political road bump for the Trump administration in California, a Democratic stronghold leading the ranks of states fighting the president on environmental and climate rollbacks and immigration issues.

In his farewell note to regional EPA staff, which Stoker provided to The Associated Press, Stoker said he believed his repeated clashes with the agency’s headquarters over unspecified “policy and non-policy items” helped prompt his removal.

But Stoker also wrote that he had been warned recently “that it wasn’t going unnoticed how many Democrat members in Congress were commending me for the job I was doing” on a contaminated site in San Francisco and other environmental issues in his region.

Aides for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, confirmed Friday that she had praised his work..

“Many thanks for your commitment to the clean up and transfer of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard,” Pelosi wrote in a June, 28, 2018 letter to Stoker. “Your work to ensure public health, hold a transparent process that engages the public ... is critical and greatly appreciated.”

EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer in Washington disputed Stoker's account of the reason for his dismissal, however.