50+ Interviews With EPA Staff: Trump Poses 'Greatest Threat' to Agency in 47-Year History
From repealing and replacing Obamacare to constructing that border wall, President Donald Trump has broken a lot of promises that he made on the campaign trail. However, there is one area where Trump has been seemingly true to the his word—crippling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the first of a series of reports from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), the Trump administration poses the greatest threat to the EPA's 47-year history.
The group's stunning analysis, The EPA Under Siege, draws on institutional history and the insight of more than 50 interviews with long-term EPA staff, who are unidentified in the report for their protection. The report's authors have identified plummeting morale, mutual distrust between political appointees and career staff, and paralysis of operations within the EPA under current Administrator Scott Pruitt.
"Twice before, presidential administrations in North America have targeted their own environmental agencies with comparable aggression, in the early Reagan administration (1981-1983) and under Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2006-2015)," the EDGI report's authors state. "Trump's assault is on track to surpass these."
The EDGI is an international coalition of academics and nonprofits organizations that formed after Trump's election to address potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy. You may know of their detailed work on tracking changes to federal websites.
There are many unsettling revelations from the report, but this section says it all:
"From their front row seats, many agency veterans now think they see a gathering profile of the Trump administration's long game: to abolish the EPA. 'I think there's a general consensus among the career people,' one tells us, 'that at bottom they're basically trying to destroy the place.' Another, working in a different office, elaborates: 'I think this is just phase one … I think there's a much bigger master plan [discernible] if you read into what came out of restructuring ... we're going to be structured out. I think they're either going to break us up again and send us back to the ... programs we came from, or combine us with Energy or strip even further programs from us so that there's just a real exceedingly small base that's doing this work. I think the plan is to get rid of EPA.'"
Here are some of the other allegations from the EPA staff (you can read the whole collection of quotes here):
Pruitt has never met with environmental groups. "I don't believe he's met with any environmental groups to date, so he's still kind of sticking with his core business, government groups." Almost no one interviewed in the report has had contact with Pruitt himself or seen him around the office. Rather, they take note of his frequent trips around the country and visits with like-minded constituencies, such as Western governors, farmers and coal miners.
Pruitt has banned staff from taking notes. "There's a premium on, I would say secrecy. Meaning senior managers that are going into meetings with Pruitt…. aren't [allowed to compile] written materials. They're asked not to take notes, not to take a computer in and type notes… Everything is just verbal. If it's just verbal, then there's no record that you can get a FOIA to see what happened."
Pruitt has requested around-the-clock security. "Pruitt is requesting in the 2018 budget that he have a security team, 24/7, made up of 10 people because he feels his life is I guess at risk because there's such internal hatred at EPA. This is scary and unfounded."
Pruitt's first speech to the agency was carefully stage-managed to avoid dissent. His speech also never alluded to the EPA's longstanding work in safeguarding human health, science, scientists, ecology or even climate change. One staff member recalled, "I can say that many of us were seething after watching his speech. Well, watching it 'live' from the EPA TV. Junior staff were not permitted to attend in person. All staff were provided with the opportunity to rsvp to attend but apparently the rsvp list was reviewed with a fine toothed comb so only those certain to not cause a disruption during the speech, would be there. I assume that means old people with suits (which is what we saw on the EPA tv while watching the speech). Yes, I too was wondering when he would mention human health. Apparently never!"
Trump's visit to the EPA was met with frustration from staff employees. During Trump's March 28 visit to the agency's headquarters to sign "new energy revolution" executive order to undo Obama's climate policies he was flanked by coal miners, Pruitt, Vice President Mike Pence and the new Secretaries of Energy Rick Perry and Interior Ryan Zinke. However, few people at the EPA were invited. One interviewee said, "We were frankly insulted that the President would come to EPA to announce that he is overturning the work to battle the most urgent environmental problem of our generation—climate change. It was beyond comprehension that an Administration could be so arrogant and callous." Another veteran official described it as an "in-your-face, insulting [a] thing as I've experienced in my time here."
Some staff believe that Trump's draconian 2018 EPA budget proposal was influenced by conservative think-tanks. One EPA worker's "personal opinion" was that "it's all from the Heritage Foundation's report, almost verbatim ... they just literally went through the list and said well this is climate change, boom this goes. EJ [environmental justice] we couldn't care less about that, this goes."
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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