Trump-era damage to the EPA appears increasingly brutal
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.
It’s been a difficult year thus far for the Environmental Protection Agency. Consider the developments from just the last couple of weeks.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s controversial far-right choice to lead the agency, decided two weeks ago to side with Dow Chemical – against the advice of the EPA’s researchers – on the use of an insecticide. The next day, the EPA’s scientific integrity office said it was reviewing whether Pruitt violated agency policies when he publicly questioned the role of carbon pollution in climate change.
Five days later, EPA officials proposed eliminating “two programs focused on limiting children’s exposure to lead-based paint.” The day after that, Trump’s EPA issued a press statement praising the Energy Star efficiency program that the Trump administration intends to scrap.
And yesterday, Scott Pruitt traveled to western Pennsylvania to describe his regressive vision for the EPA at a coal mine. The New Republic’s Emily Atkin explained that the EPA chief specifically chose the Harvey Mine, which opened in 2014 as part of the Bailey Mine Complex, owned by the 153-year-old energy company Consol Energy.
Pruitt might point to the Harvey mine as evidence of coal mining’s bright future. But a closer look at the Bailey complex shows it’s hardly a shining example of profitable, environmentally friendly coal mining. Last year, the EPA and the Department of Justice fined Consol $3 million for discharging contaminated wastewater from the Bailey complex into tributaries of the Ohio River, which provides drinking water for approximately 3 million people. In addition, all three mines in the complex have racked up millions of dollars in Mine Safety and Health Administration violations. […]
Granted, it would be a challenge to find an American mining operation that hasn’t broken environmental laws or struggled financially over its lifetime. But Harvey Mine is a bad symbolic choice for yet another reason: It’s owned by a company that wants to get out of the coal mining business altogether.
Oddly enough, Pruitt didn’t mention any of this.
This comes on the heels of a Washington Post piece on the state of the Environmental Protection Agency itself.
Twice during an hour of interviews for this column, EPA workers in different parts of the country asked to communicate with me by using encryption software. All who spoke feared retaliation and would not allow their names to be used.
“It is pretty bleak,” one staffer, an environmental engineer, said about employee morale.
“It’s in the dumps,” said another.
“Pretty much everybody is updating their resumes. It’s grim,” added a third.
They and their colleagues are dedicated to EPA’s mission to “protect human health and the environment.” They fear that Trump administration policies will do the opposite.
This morning, Pruitt made matters worse, calling for a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, shortly after he halted an Obama-era rule aimed at curbing toxic wastewater from coal plants.
As elections-have-consequences moments go, this is all pretty brutal.