Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pruitt's political foxes chowing down in the EPA hen house

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt talks with reporter in Hazard, KY

Career employees at the agency say political appointees are shutting them out of decision-making. They worry that the public will suffer.

Rachel Leven reports for the Center for Public Integrity:
Today’s EPA is wracked with internal conflict and industry influence, and is struggling to fulfill its mission, according to more than two dozen current and former agency employees. A few dozen political appointees brought in under the Trump administration are driving policy. At least 16 of the 45 appointees worked for industries such as oil, coal and chemicals. Four of these people — and another 21 — worked for, or donated to, politicians who have questioned established climate science, such as Pruitt and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.

Most of the 46 political appointees working at EPA previously worked for climate change doubters or industry 

Career staff members — lawyers, scientists, analysts — are largely being frozen out of decision-making, current and former agency employees say. These staffers rarely get face time with Pruitt and frequently receive top-down orders from political appointees with little room for debate. They must sometimes force their way into conversations about subjects in which they have expertise.
And that is a big mistake, said one of Pruitt’s predecessors.
Career employees are “very dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, and they will change their ways of how they do that if they’re convinced you really want to accomplish that aim,” said Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator under President George W. Bush.
One such employee agreed. “I think it’s the fact that we’re not following regular procedures, we’re not sure of what the legal justification is for some of the things they’re asking us to do. We’re just kind of being told ‘Do the opposite thing you did 18 months ago.’ That’s hard to swallow.”
Under Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, the agency already has declined to ban a pesticide linked to neurological damage in children; frozen requirements to reduce water pollution from coal-fired power plants and opened the door to loosening limits on toxic coal waste. The EPA most recently proposed eliminating the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the power sector.
“These rules [being rolled back] aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There are ways to improve things,” said Gordon Binder, who served as chief of staff for then-EPA Administrator William Reilly under President George H.W. Bush. "But Pruitt’s come in with a flyswatter and is slapping them down instead of laying out the problems with a rule and saying, ‘How can we fix it?’”
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