Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt is purging science and scientitsts. To make matters worse many of the scientists that have been let go have been replaced with fossil fuel industry lobbyists and lawyers. Under Pruitt remaining scientists are muzzled and facts are suppressed. In addition to repealing regulations Pruitt is burying the science that supports the agency’s rules.
The EPA under Pruitt has abandoned science and with it actions based on evidence. Instead of being guided by facts the agency is now guided by the very industries it is charged to regulate. The EPA was once one a paragon of science, now scientific conclusions that are incompatible with Pruitt’s pro-polluter agenda are censored. Pruitt not only removed references to climate change from the EPA website, the agency’s new four year strategic plan does not mention climate change once.
According to a recently leaked memo in April 2017 Pruitt directed his staff to remove climate change information from the EPA website. He also sent his employees a list of talking points on climate change including statements that downplay its anthropogenic origins.
Pruitt has also muzzled EPA scientists preventing them from speaking publicly. In October the EPA canceled the speaking appearance of three agency scientists who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference in Rhode Island.
Last June the EPA gave notice to dozens of scientific advisory board members that they will not be renewed in their roles at the agency. In November Pruitt cited the Bible to justify a new rule preventing university scientists from serving on key advisory boards. The purge, which included some of the best and the brightest scientists at the EPA, was designed to clear the way for Pruitt to either leave the posts vacant or appoint fossil fuel and petrochemical industry lobbyists and lawyers.
Trump’s most recent budget proposed slashing the EPA’s funding by 34 percent. The combination of staff and budget cuts that have already occurred at the agency are making it impossible for the EPA to enforce remaining regulations. According to a report by Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), staff and budget cuts have succeeded in reducing by half the number of penalties levied against polluters compared to the same period in the past three presidential administrations.
Pruitt has succeeded in eviscerating key portions of the EPA including the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), the Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).
By going after agency scientists and key EPA bodies Pruitt appears intent on dismantling the agency. He is also targeting the morale of those that are still working at the agency. This has had the desired effect of reducing the agency’s effectiveness and auguring a number of resignations.
In an act that some senior EPA officials have described as their “civic duty” they are quitting the agency in protest and leaving behind scathing indictments of Pruitt’s leadership. Peter Meyer, an economist with the E.P. Systems Group is but one of dozens of who have resigned. Meyer publicly resigned from BOSC’s sustainable and healthy communities subcommittee to protest staff cuts.
Mustafa Ali, is a pillar of environmental justice, he quit the EPA when it became clear that Pruitt and the Trump administration want to end protections for vulnerable Americans. Ali helped start the environmental justice office and its environmental equity office in the 1990s. He has been a champion of poor and minority neighborhoods afflicted by pollution. Although Ali has served both Republicans and Democrats, he came to the conclusion that he could not work with the Trump administration. Ali told ThinkProgress that he had to “stand up” and in his resignation letter he asked Pruitt, to listen to poor and non-white people and “value their lives.”
Elizabeth Southerland is a senior EPA official who quit the EPA. She was the Director of the Office of Science and Technology for the agency’s Water Office. She resigned after 30 years of dedicated service because she could not stand idly by and watch the agency be dismantled. As she left she called out Pruitt and Trump for their anti-environment, anti-science, anti-regulatory agenda saying they are willfully undermining the agency’s core mission. She decried Pruitt’s contempt for scientific fact and she issued a scathing message for her boss. “Today the environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth,” she said in her resignation letter which she described as her civic duty. “The truth is there is NO war on coal, there is NO economic crisis caused by environmental protection, and climate change IS caused by man’s activities.”
Mike Cox is another senior EPA official who has left due to the anti-environment anti-science orientation Pruitt has brought to the agency. Cox also has 30 years of experience at the agency, and as he explained in his resignation letter, he is retiring because, “this is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies of an administration and, by extension, the EPA administrator.”
Former EPA staffers have created a guide for resisting Pruitt and Trump’s de-regulatory agenda. The group known as Save EPA is made up of former employees based in Denver. The city of Chicago has published a guide to help other cities fight back against the EPA’s efforts to purge climate science. Cities like Atlanta, Burlington, Houston and Seattle all followed Chicago’s lead and published deleted EPA information on their websites.
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