The Trump administration will not reappoint half the expert members of a board that advises the Environmental Protection Agency on the integrity of its science, the latest in a series of moves that could benefit industries whose pollution the government regulates.
Deborah L. Swackhamer, chairwoman of the Board of Scientific Counselors, confirmed Monday that nine of the 18 outside experts on her panel will not serve a second three-year term. The affected board members' terms expired April 30.
Experts are limited to serving two terms on the board, and Swackhamer said that in the past those completing their first term would typically have been reappointed. Four other board members just completed their second terms, meaning 13 of the 18 seats on the panel are now vacant.
EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said the agency's new leadership wants to consider a wider array of applicants, potentially including those who may work for chemical and fossil fuel companies. He said former board members may also be considered.
(Newser) ‚Äď The EPA has faced no shortage of criticism over the past several months, but reproaches appear to be growing louder based on a slew of revelations this week. The AP reports on a previously undisclosed meeting EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had with Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical, three weeks before the EPA chose not to ban the Dow pesticide chlorpyrifos from use on food crops. An EPA rep has downplayed the meeting, saying the two were only "briefly introduced" at an energy conference they were both speaking at.
Further details: In an open letter to Pruitt, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Working Group say they're "deeply alarmed" by the EPA decision, given the "unambiguous" finding that the chemical poses a risk to fetuses and infants, per the Hill. Pruitt has said the decision was based on "meaningful science."
Meanwhile, the top scientist on the EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors says the EPA's chief of staff asked her to alter her testimony to the House Science Committee regarding the firing of several board members. Deborah Swackhamer tells the New York Times she felt "bullied." The Guardian reports on the EPA's plan to erase a federal rule protecting drinking water for a third of Americans. With such a move, critics say President Trump has "agreed to do the bidding of the worst polluters in our country."
Adding more fuel to the fire: In a list of new hires at the EPA, seven people stand out as coming from the coal, oil, and chemical industries. Business Insider has a blurb on each of them.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt attends a Cabinet meeting at the White House this month. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Another trip to Capitol Hill for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, another reminder that lawmakers from both parties have no intention of approving the deep cuts President Trump is seeking at the agency.
Pruitt heard a familiar sentiment Tuesday from both Republican and Democratic members of a Senate Appropriations Committee ‚ÄĒ that a proposed 31 percent cut to EPA isn‚Äôt going to happen, and that shuttering key programs and laying off thousands of employees conflicts with the Trump administration‚Äôs stated goals about safeguarding the nation‚Äôs air and water.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) noted that while she supports Pruitt‚Äôs approach of focusing on the EPA‚Äôs central responsibilities while steering away from the climate policies of the Obama administration, the current budget proposal is ‚Äúin direct contrast‚ÄĚ to such an approach. She singled out aid to Alaska Native villages and a radon detection program as areas that have proven to save and improve lives.
‚ÄúWe have rejected changes like these in past, and I will certainly push my colleagues to do so again this year,‚ÄĚ Murkowski said.
Democrats were even more blunt.
‚ÄúThe budget request before us today is downright offensive,‚ÄĚ Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said as he cited a litany of programs slated for elimination or massive cuts. ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt square this with your rhetoric about returning EPA to its core responsibilities. Nothing was spared. EPA‚Äôs core is hollowed out. ‚Ä¶ These cuts aren‚Äôt an intent to rein in spending, they are an intentional step to undermine science and ignore environmental and public health realities.‚ÄĚ
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) called the Trump administration‚Äôs proposal ‚Äúreally the worst I‚Äôve seen.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis budget that you‚Äôve proposed doesn‚Äôt uphold your agency‚Äôs mission,‚ÄĚ Leahy said. ‚ÄúWe ought to be doubling down on our investment to protect our environment for the sake of our children and grandchildren. We ought to curb the effects of climate change. Instead, the administration is tearing down the legacy of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.‚ÄĚ
Tuesday‚Äôs hearing came after another on in the House earlier this month, in which Pruitt encountered similar resistance from both sides of the aisle. At each hearing, he defended the White House proposal, saying the agency could still live up to its mission with proper management, better leadership and less waste.
The Trump administration would reduce EPA‚Äôs funding by $2.4 billion annually ‚ÄĒ a larger percentage cut than at any other federal agency. The White House wants to shrink the agency‚Äôs workforce by thousands of people and sharply reduce or end a variety of national and regional programs.
The Trump administration has proposed nearly halving grants that support state and local efforts to address everything from pesticide exposure to air and water quality. It would slash nearly one-third of funding for Superfund cleanups ‚ÄĒ though Pruitt has insisted that he will prioritize the program, which help restore some of the nation‚Äôs most polluted sites.
ALBANY ‚ÄĒ More than 110 organizations across New York state have launched a campaign to save the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from budget cuts proposed by the current federal administration, warning that they would not only hurt the environment, but also endanger the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans.
‚ÄúThe EPA is the only reason we‚Äôre not still drinking cancer water today,‚ÄĚ said Michele Baker, a mother from Hoosick Falls. ‚ÄúPresident Trump and the people he has running the EPA should be looking for ways to strengthen our laws, to keep what happened here from happening anywhere else. It is beyond immoral that they‚Äôre pushing cuts instead. If Congress does not stop the President, people will get sick and die.‚ÄĚ
Representatives from environmental advocacy groups Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY), Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch and Citizens Campaign for the Environment spoke of the importance of funding the endangered EPA programs at a press conference at the Legislative Offices Building in Albany on Wednesday, June 28.
Under Trump‚Äôs proposed budget, Energy Star and WaterSense programs, which help consumers purchase energy- and water-efficient appliances, would be eliminated, as well as the Office of Environmental Justice, which protects lower-income communities disproportionately affected by pollution. It would also remove funding for: Great Lakes and Lake Champlain clean-up programs; lead remediation support; marine, beach and fish safety programs; climate change research; and research into the dangers of pesticides. In addition, the budget would cut diesel emissions reduction grant programs by 80 percent, air and energy research by more than 60 percent and reduce funding for the already-underfunded Superfund program.
‚ÄúThe EPA‚Äôs work is important to all of us,‚ÄĚ said Caitlin Pixley Ferrante, chapter coordinator of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. ‚ÄúThe EPA should continue to work to protect our families, our children, our future ‚ÄĒ not be forced to pander to polluters. The New York Republican Congressional Representatives ‚ÄĒ the NY Nine ‚ÄĒ need to save the EPA. Say no to the Trump EPA budget. Protect us, not polluters.‚ÄĚ
What happened? The Trump team is hammering particularly hard on the Environmental Protection Agency. At the start of the week, the administration froze EPA grants and contracts, which fund everything from cleanup of toxic sites to testing of air quality, though most grants and contracts have now been unfrozen. The admin is vetting all external meetings and presentations that employees are planning to give over the next three weeks, reviewing studies and data that have already been published by EPA scientists, and has put a ‚Äútemporary hold‚ÄĚ on the release of new scientific information.
Myron Ebell, who until recently led Trump‚Äôs EPA transition team, said on Thursday that his ‚Äúaspirational‚ÄĚ goal would be to see the agency‚Äôs staff slashed by two-thirds, from about 15,000 people down to 5,000, and that Trump could be expected to cut about $1 billion from the agency‚Äôs annual budget of roughly $8 billion. Ebell is not part of the administration, but his views sound like what you‚Äôd expect to hear from Scott Pruitt, Trump‚Äôs nominee to head EPA.
How much should you worry? A lot. The EPA is responsible for implementing federal laws that protect air and water, and determining what the latest science tells us about protecting human health. The agency is involved in everything from helping to fix the Flint water crisis to overseeing cleanup of toxic sites. Weakening the EPA, let alone eviscerating it, would directly and negatively affect Americans‚Äô health.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has met regularly with corporate executives from the automobile, mining and fossil fuel industries ‚ÄĒ in several instances shortly before making decisions favorable to those interest groups, according to a copy of his schedule obtained by The Washington Post.
There were, by comparison, only two environmental groups and one public health group on the schedule, which covers the months of April through early September.
It is the first time Pruitt‚Äôs schedule has been made public and it adds to understanding about how he makes decisions.
On the morning of May 1, Pruitt met at EPA headquarters with the Pebble Limited Partnership, a Canadian firm that had been blocked by the agency in 2014 from building a massive gold, copper and molybdenum mine in Alaska‚Äôs Bristol Bay watershed.
That afternoon, he met with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who also opposed the Obama administration‚Äôs decision to invoke a provision of the Clean Water Act to block the mine, on the grounds that contamination could jeopardize the region‚Äôs valuable sockeye salmon run.
A week-and-a-half after the meetings, the two sides struck a legal settlement that cleared the way for the firm to apply for federal permits for the operation.
In a statement at the time, Pruitt said that the agreement ‚Äúwill not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation.‚ÄĚ
A week after the administrator met with Pebble Limited Partnership, he met at EPA headquarters with Fitzgerald Truck Sales, the nation‚Äôs largest manufacturer of commercial truck ‚Äúgliders,‚ÄĚ which are truck bodies without an engine or transmission.
On August 17, a little more than two months after meeting with Fitzgerald, Pruitt announced he would revisit an October 2016 decision to apply greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks to gliders and trailers, saying he was making the decision following ‚Äúthe significant issues‚ÄĚ raised by those in the industry.
Pruitt had indicated in March that he might relax the fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks that President Obama had approved. And during this period, he met with representatives of General Motors on April 26; the Auto Alliance, the industry‚Äôs lobbying arm, on April 27; and Ford Motor Co. on May 23. The industry has been pressing for a rollback in the efficiency targets. In August, the EPA formally reopened the rules.
The EPA chief also met with representatives of the American Gas Association on April 5. On April 18 he wrote a letter saying he would reconsider agency rules that would require limits on methane leaks and emissions by companies drilling for natural gas.
On April 24 met with the executive committee of the National Mining Association and the next day with representatives of rural cooperatives, whose rural and suburban customers rely largely on aging coal plants. He met with oil industry companies and associations, including Phillips 66, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers board; the American Petroleum Institute directors; and Magellan Midstream Partners, a petroleum pipeline and storage firm.
Pruitt also met on April 6 with FirstEnergy, an Ohio-based utility that has been looking for financial or regulatory relief to keep its aging coal plants from being shut down. The plants have been hard-pressed to meet mercury limits required under the Clean Air Act, and to compete with cheap natural gas and renewable energy.
He also met with a number of agriculture business groups, Boeing and General Electric, and CIA director Mike Pompeo.
During the period covered by the schedule, from early April to mid-September, Pruitt consulted repeatedly with state and federal officials by phone or in person. Of the 19 governors he contacted, all but five were Republican.
One, West Virginia‚Äôs Jim Justice was a Democrat at the time, but subsequently switched parties. Another, Puerto Rico‚Äôs Ricardo Rosello, who heads the island‚Äôs New Progressive Party, which espouses statehood, he contacted after the commonwealth had been hit by Hurricane Irma.
While the administrator has devoted much of his time to meeting with industry representatives, he did meet with three environmental and public health advocates in late May.
On May 24 he saw officials from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which backs stricter air pollution standards, and the next day he met with Trout Unlimited.
On May 25 Pruitt met with Bob Perciasepe, who served as EPA deputy administrator for four and-a-half years under Obama and now heads the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Two liberal lesbians talking bad on the Trump administration... pathetic...