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Thursday, Aug 16, 2018
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Another voice: Scott Pruitt's EPA is delivering, except for clean air and water

Whatever troubles President Donald Trump may be having, it must be said that in a perverse sort of way, his Environmental Protection Agency is a screaming success.

Trump has ping-ponged from one attention-grabbing controversy to another. He hasn't passed a single substantial piece of legislation and continues to baffle Republican congressional leaders with his shifting positions and his penchant for personal attacks. Meanwhile, as public attention focuses elsewhere, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is quietly dismantling decades of work done under Republican and Democratic presidents alike to protect the environment.

If you voted for Trump because you wanted dirtier air and water, Pruitt is delivering. If you wanted industry insiders in charge of EPA divisions overseeing dangerous chemicals and pesticides, you've got 'em. If you agree with Trump that climate change is a "hoax" and "nonsense" and a "barnyard epithet," then he and Pruitt deserve the credit.

"We've ended the EPA intrusion into your jobs and into your lives," Trump boasted in a North Dakota speech last month. "And we're refocusing the EPA on its core mission: clean air and clean water."

That second sentence, like so much of what Trump says, is the opposite of true. Pruitt has begun taking steps to revoke the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule, which asserted federal jurisdiction over smaller bodies of waters that feed into larger streams and rivers. Two weeks ago, Pruitt signed an order to begin dismantling the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan that regulates industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

Pruitt has the support of industries that say complying with tighter environmental regulations is too costly and difficult. It's easier and cheaper for industries to dump crud into the air and water, and industry has a special place at Pruitt's EPA.

Michael Dourson, nominated to be the new head of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution, used to run a consulting company whose clients included Dow Chemical, Koch Industries and Chevron Corp. His top deputy would be Nancy Beck, until recently an official of the chemical industry's top lobbying group.

Pruitt has moved to muzzle EPA's climate scientists and delete mentions of "climate change" and "global warming" from EPA publications. In just the latest example, three EPA scientists were forced to cancel speeches planned at a conference on efforts to clean up Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay.

All of Pruitt's success — if you define success as making the air and water dirtier and the country safe for the coal and chemical industries — comes at a price. Pruitt is so concerned about his own security that he's had a $25,000 "cone of silence" phone booth installed in his office and wants to add a dozen agents to his 18-person security detail.

This is the reality of the Trump administration: a government by and for special interests at a terrible cost.

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