A senior official at the EPA used her resignation letter to point out the absurdity of Trump denying global warming. Trump and EPA head Scott Pruitt are putting “our children and grandchildren” at increased safety risk.
In a memo explaining her resignation, Betsy Southerland said Trump is damaging the agency’s mission. Betsy worked at the EPA for 30 years.
Southerland writes the EPA had been “the guiding light to make the ‘right thing’ happen for the greater good, including public health and safety.”
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wants you to know that he was responsible for persuading President Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Pruitt did everything he could to telegraph to the world that he thought Paris was a bad deal for America. Pruitt urged Big Coal executives to make their views known to the president as well. Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, was lobbied equally hard by major business leaders and some of his own advisers, including his daughter Ivanka and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to stay in the agreement. But Pruitt, aligned with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, won the fight. And when Trump announced the decision to withdraw from Paris in the White House Rose Garden on June 1st, Pruitt was the only Cabinet official who spoke at the ceremony. “We owe no apologies to other nations for our environmental stewardship,” Pruitt said in a strikingly defiant tone.
Pruitt also dodged questions about whether he and the president actually believe that climate change is a hoax. “All the discussions that we had through the last several weeks have been focused on one singular issue,” Pruitt said. “Is Paris good or not for this country?” It didn’t matter that solar and wind energy are creating American jobs at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the economy, or that 61 percent of Americans disagreed with the decision to pull out of Paris.
While the rest of the Trump administration has been mired in scandal or incompetence (or both), and the media has been distracted by the Republican health care debacle and daily revelations about the Trump family’s involvement with the Russians, Pruitt has been quietly tearing down decades of environmental progress. “If there was ever an example of the fox guarding the henhouse, this is it,” says Michael Mann, a noted climate scientist at Penn State University. “We have a Koch-brothers-connected industry shill who is now in charge of climate and environmental policy for the entire country.”
Pruitt alienated many of the rank and file with an uninspiring introductory speech about the importance of civility and how “regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate.” He did not say a word about public health or the environment. That same week, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said that those who want to eliminate the EPA are “justified” in their beliefs. “I think people across the country look at the EPA the way they look at the IRS,” Pruitt said. As one EPA staffer commented later, “Could he have been more insulting?”
Some events seemed orchestrated to demoralize the agency’s staff. Trump invited coal miners into the Rachel Carson Room to witness the dismantling of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. “Inviting the miners to come over to the EPA for the signing was such an invasion,” one EPA staffer says, noting the rollback took place in the very room where McCarthy had signed the Clean Power Plan. “They knew exactly what they were doing – it was staged to be totally in-your-face.” Posters of Pruitt shaking hands with miners now adorn the halls of the agency.
In May, Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who openly mocked funding for climate science, released the White House’s 2018 budget proposal. It aims to cut EPA funds from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion – the 31 percent reduction would be the largest of any federal agency. Climate science is a big target: The program for reporting on greenhouse-gas emissions would be zeroed out, and the office responsible for drafting climate regulations would see its funds cut by nearly 70 percent.
Pruitt has steadfastly resisted and evaded Freedom of Information Act requests for e-mail records and other public documents. He’s so good at operating in the shadows, in fact, that he was recently given the Golden Padlock Award by investigative journalists, which recognizes the most secretive publicly funded person or agency in the United States.
Pruitt and his wife, Marlyn, have two college-age kids, and back home in Oklahoma attend services at First Baptist Church in the town of Broken Arrow, where Pruitt is a deacon. Nick Garland, the head pastor, knows Pruitt well and says he displays “a tremendous amount of Christian character.”
As attorney general, Pruitt spent most of his time suing the federal government. In the 14 lawsuits he filed against the EPA, Pruitt attempted to stop rules limiting the amount of smog that drifts across state borders; block a new standard on pollution from mercury, claiming “the record does not support the EPA’s findings that mercury . . . pose[s] public health hazards”; and stall a plan for reducing air pollution in national parks. Most of these lawsuits were tossed out, but some were effective in clogging up the courts, buying industry a few more years to pollute.