Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

The Mission of Scott Pruitt: End the EPA as We Know It

Popular
Victoria Pickering / Flickr

By Lukas Ross

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt headed to Congress for testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment. The topic of the hearing? "The Mission of the U.S. EPA."

Since Pruitt has been incredibly sparing in his appearances on Capitol Hill, this is a rare chance to ask hard questions of the most controversial administrator in the history of the EPA.


Here are three areas where Scott Pruitt badly needs some accountability.

Budgets and Buyouts

Since the EPA has spent decades as a partisan target, it comes as no real surprise that it is badly underfunded. Discounting a small bump following the 2009 stimulus bill, the agency's budget has declined or stayed stagnant since the mid-2000s. Even before the Trump administration proposed a draconian 31 percent cut, the agency was on a starvation diet courtesy of Congressional Republicans.

Under Pruitt, the unmistakable agenda is to cut the agency even further—and nowhere is this more obvious than staffing levels. In July, it was revealed that Pruitt was seeking to shrink the EPA through the early retirement of as many as 1,227 employees in fiscal year 2017 alone. Although only 372 workers opted for an early out, the EPA is on course to be its leanest since the late 1980s.

Silencing Science

Since 1978, the EPA has looked to its Scientific Advisory Board for input on regulations and research priorities. It is meant to be a panel of neutral experts who are leaders in their respective fields. Or it was until Scott Pruitt got there.

In October, Pruitt issued a directive banning scientists who receive grant funding from the EPA from serving on its advisory board. Ostensibly designed to prevent conflicts of interest and encourage "fresh perspectives," it isn't hard to imagine what this means in practice: an EPA even more beholden to industry "science" and its priorities of profit and unlimited pollution. Pruitt's pick for a new Chairman of the Board, a Texas state official who thinks smog isn't that bad, seems to bear this theory out.

Denying Climate

Climate change isn't free. The costs inflicted on present and future generations by rising sea levels, droughts and superstorms are all burdens of our fossil fueled economy.

To weigh the costs of climate change, the Obama administration used something called the social cost of carbon—a per ton estimate pegged most recently at $36 designed to price the value of preventing carbon pollution. This was used to model the economic costs and benefits of numerous federal regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan.

Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration released an Executive Order in March withdrawing the previous estimates. This in turn gave federal agencies like the EPA a free hand to skew the cost of carbon pollution and make their climate-killing deregulatory agenda seem like an implausibly good deal.

The good news is that this week seven Senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse requested the Government Accountability Office look into the alternative math coming from Trump administration. One example the Senators cite as particularly interesting is an estimated social cost of carbon of $1 used to calculate the benefits of repealing the Clean Power Plan. The estimate under the previous administration had been $45.

Conclusion

This isn't a "back to basics" agenda that Pruitt likes to innocently claim. The mission of the EPA is to protect our air and water, but it's clear that the mission of Scott Pruitt is to end the EPA as we know it. Congress must hold him accountable.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

More than 1,000 people were told to evacuate their homes when a wildfire ignited in the foothills west of Denver Monday, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Read More Show Less

Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. mixetto / E+ / Getty Images

Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. New research has found that 5.4 million Americans were dropped from their insurance between February and May of this year. In that three-month stretch more Americans lost their coverage than have lost coverage in any entire year, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
Heat waves are most dangerous for older people and those with health problems. Global Jet / Flickr / CC by 2.0

On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.

Read More Show Less
Nearly 250 U.S. oil and gas companies are expected to file for bankruptcy by the end of next year. Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Fracking companies are going bankrupt at a rapid pace, often with taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives, leaving harm for communities, taxpayers, and workers, the New York Time reports.

Read More Show Less
Trump introduces EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler during an event to announce changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The changes would make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without considering climate change. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, voiced support for safe reopening measures. www.vperemen.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA

By Kristen Fischer

It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Critics charge the legislation induces poor communities to sell off their water rights. Pexels

By Eoin Higgins

Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.

Read More Show Less