TWITE 09.07.17

Posted September 07, 2017

The US Southeast is grappling with the devastating fallout from one hurricane while scrambling to prepare for another, even larger, storm. What is being done to address the underlying issues of climate change and insufficient environmental regulations? The federal strategy seems to be hiring more foxes for the hen house, and making the hens pay for it. One of the most effective tods in Trump’s skulk is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has already attempted to overturn several important environmental regulations protecting public health and safety. He has also created a culture of conflict and confusion among the EPA staffers, and is concerned enough for his personal safety that he feels compelled to travel with armed security. As an environmental scientist (whose doctoral research was partially funded by an EPA grant), I had always considered the EPA to be a trustworthy source of information and an ally in the movement to create a better relationship between our society and the planet we live on. But Pruitt’s words and actions show that he is not just another of Trump’s lame duck nominees, and that the EPA has in fact been taken over by corporate fascists—that is, those who would place the power of the government into the hands of private business interests at odds with the desires and well-being of the public. Such an agency can no longer be trusted to work in the best interests of the American people. Read on to learn more about the Trump administration’s continued attacks on our land, air, water, and future.

—Jon Conway, Ph.D., Greenpower Research Director

5. Donald Trump's EPA Is Now Attacking Journalists Gizmodo

EPA Head Scott Pruitt has described his strategy for the agency as “back-to-basics,” by which he means rolling back important environmental regulations and refocusing attention away from climate change to prioritize cleaning up heavily polluted Superfund sites. However, a recent AP article in which reporters traveled by boat to flooded Superfund sites in the wake of Hurricane Harvey criticized the EPA for its lack of visible response, saying that the EPA only had responded at two out of a dozen flooded sites. The EPA responded by issuing a press statement personally attacking the two reporters, including a linked reference to an inaccurate article published on the inflammatory far-right/white supremacy conspiracy news site Breitbart. The agency did not contradict the claims made in the AP article. What does it mean when a major federal agency launches a personal attack against members of one of the most widely-respected news organizations for reporting a true story, while promoting a racist, misogynistic, “alternate fact”-reporting news organization with a self-confessed extremist bias?

"Once again, in an attempt to mislead Americans, the Associated Press is cherry-picking facts, as EPA is monitoring Superfund sites around Houston and we have a team of experts on the ground working with our state and local counterparts responding to Hurricane Harvey. Anything to the contrary is yellow journalism." Liz Bowman, EPA Associate Administrator

4. EPA Taps Climate Change Doubter to Lead Midwest Office The Hill

In case further proof of the corporate fascist takeover of the EPA was needed, “business friendly” climate-denier Cathy Stepp was recently announced as the new head of its Midwest regional office. Stepp was an outspoken opponent of environmental regulations during her term as a Wisconsin State Senator, for which she was rewarded by Koch-funded Wisconsin governor Scott Walker with the administrative position at the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). As the head of the DNR, Stepp scrubbed mention of climate change from department webpages, levied some of the lowest environmental fines in the agency’s history, and came under strong criticism for prioritizing business interests over environmental protection. There is no reason to suspect that the staunch Trump supporter will behave differently in her new position as one of the leaders of the EPA.

"Stepp has consistently strived to promote clean air, water and land while ensuring regulatory certainty at the state level to promote a strong and growing economy." Liz Bowman, EPA Associate Administrator

3. Trump Nominates Climate Change Denier to Head NASA EcoWatch

NASA has been one of the preeminent organizations in the global climate research community for decades, and provides invaluable data about the planet we inhabit with their network of satellites. It appears that history of value and leadership is drawing to a (hopefully temporary) close with the forthcoming nomination of die-hard anthropogenic climate change denier Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma as NASA administrator. The move has even drawn criticism from Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio, who described Bridenstine’s lack of scientific background or experience with the agency as “devastating.” The loss of another leading agency in the struggle against human-caused climate change is one we can barely afford, and will lead to more death and destruction.

2. EPA Now Requires Political Aide’s Sign-off For Agency Awards, Grant Applications The Washington Post

One of the EPA’s less-public roles is as a major financial supporter of environmental research and programs through a number of awards and grants. In the past, funding has been awarded on the basis of anticipated environmental benefit, but the current administration has apparently opted for a different selection method by allowing former Trump campaign aide John Konkus to choose grant recipients. The unprecedented move of placing a politician with no scientific background in charge of grant approval has already resulted in the cancellation of awards totalling nearly $2 million and the censoring of the phrase “climate change” from others. It has also allowed the Trump administration to threaten and bribe state leaders by granting or withholding funding for critical projects. By appointing a political insider to such a key role, the EPA has been turned into a powerful tool in Trump’s anti-environmental regulation crusade.

1. How President Trump and the EPA's Scott Pruitt are Making America's Environment Deadly Again The Los Angeles Times

The LA Times’ brief editorial on Scott Pruitt’s rise as an enemy to the environment provides a neat summary of the death of the EPA. Here is a man who has spent a significant portion of his life trying to destroy the agency responsible for keeping the American people and land alive and healthy, an agency with the potential to be one of the single greatest champions of our country’s fight against devastating climate change. He has already tried to overturn regulations that he confessed protected children's lives, and he’s just getting started.

"Environmental protection, what they do is a disgrace; every week they come out with new regulations." Donald Trump

Photo Credit: "Follow the leaders," Berlin, Germany, April 2011. Isaac Cordal

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