WASHINGTON — Eric O. Stork, an Environmental Protection Agency regulator who tangled with the auto industry over vehicle air pollution standards, died Feb. 2 of kidney failure at his home in Arlington County, Va. He was 87.
Mr. Stork specialized in monitoring compliance with EPA regulations. For eight years in the 1970s, he watched over automakers’ compliance with the rules on exhaust emissions. He became known as ‘‘The Iron Duke’’ and ‘‘Mr. Clean Air.’’
In early 1978, he was ‘‘removed’’ from his job at the EPA, ending his federal career at age 51. ‘‘Fired is more accurate, but that’s not the way it was put,’’ Washington Post columnist Haynes Johnson wrote at the time.
Eric Oswald Stork was born Jan. 8, 1927, in Hamburg, Germany. He was sent to Britain as a child, came to the United States at 13 and grew up in the state of Washington. He served in the US Army near the end of World War II and graduated in 1950 from Reed College in Oregon. He received a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University.
Stork told the Post that as a student, ‘‘I asked myself the question . . . what can I do to make a dent?
‘‘I figured that given the years I had to live, the biggest difference in our lives is going to be made by the government, the federal government,’’ he said. “So if you want to make a dent, you’ve got to go where the dents are made.’’
Mr. Stork worked at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Food and Drug Administration. At the EPA, he was head of mobile source pollution control.
He was always a committed believer in the merits of government regulations.
‘‘In our day and age complete laissez faire is just impossible,’’ he told the Post in 1978. ‘‘There are social goals that must be achieved. Clean air is one, job safety is another, clean food and safe drugs — all of these things, and all of them cost money. No company in a competitive situation can afford to spend money on these things unless it has confidence that its competitors will do so also.’’
After leaving the EPA, Mr. Stork taught at Purdue University.