30-Year EPA Veteran: 'I Have Never Seen Anything Like It'
President Trump's visit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week to sign an executive order overturning years of work on the Clean Power Plan and other policies is just the latest sign of sinking employee morale at the EPA.
With enormous budget and staffing cuts and total about-faces on policy, the Trump administration "is outright turning things over completely on their head," a senior EPA official told the LA Times. "I have never seen anything like it."
Echoing this sentiment, retiring EPA climate change specialist Michael Cox sent a damning letter to Administrator Scott Pruitt Friday claiming "morale at EPA is the lowest since I started in 1987." In his four-page letter, Cox wrote that he become "increasingly alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership." He cited problems such as "denying fundamental climate science," "indefensible budget cuts," "appointing political staff who are openly hostile to EPA" and "lack of understanding of what we do at EPA."
Emphasizing government's role to serve the people, Cox said:
"I, and many staff, firmly believe the policies this Administration is advancing are contrary to what the majority of the American people, who pay our salaries, want EPA to accomplish, which are to ensure the air their children breath[e] is safe; the land they live, play, and hunt on to be free of toxic chemicals; and the water they drink, the lakes they swim in, and the rivers they fish in to be clean."
Cox told Pruitt that the "health of the American people and our country depends on you," and he asked him to resist political pressure to serve polluters. "America is a world leader in protecting our citizen's human health and our environment," he wrote. "Do you really want your legacy to be the person who led the rollback and reversal of the amazing gains we have made over the past 40 years?"
Meanwhile, an internal White House memo obtained Monday by Politico details proposed further cuts to the agency, including an 84 percent cut to the Science Advisory Board's $646,000 budget due to "an anticipated lower number of peer reviews."
As Bloomberg reported:
The Trump administration is proposing to slash funding for grants to prevent lead poisoning, climate change research and criminal enforcement against polluters as part of its plan to reduce funding at the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly a third.
"We understand the core missions of EPA are antipollution enforcement and regulation. They appear to be substantially cutting both," Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told Bloomberg. "How any of this benefits the environment or public health remains unclear."
For a deeper dive:
England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.
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By Alex McInturff, Christine Wilkinson and Wenjing Xu
What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads. If our planet's fences were stretched end to end, they would likely bridge the distance from Earth to the Sun multiple times.
Early advertisement for barbed wire fencing, 1880-1889. The advent of barbed wire dramatically changed ranching and land use in the American West by ending the open range system. Kansas Historical Society / CC BY-ND
The authors assembled a conservative data set of potential fence lines across the U.S. West. They calculated the nearest distance to any given fence to be less than 31 miles (50 kilometers), with a mean of about 2 miles (3.1 kilometers). McInturff et al,. 2020 / CC BY-ND
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