An Arsonist in Charge of Fighting Fires?
It would be more than a little weird if the person chosen to run Ben & Jerry’s hated ice cream and wanted to ban chunks and swirls from every pint. So it struck us, and a lot of other people too, as bizarre when President Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s like “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.
The reason for the uproar? Scott Pruitt’s main qualification for leading the EPA appears to have been how much he hated the EPA. He spent the last six years as the attorney general of Oklahoma, and as AG he sued the EPA repeatedly, with the goal of rolling back environmental protections, especially those that targeted the fossil-fuel industry (an industry he has close ties to). And now… he’s in charge.
As you might imagine, having a known EPA adversary at the helm of the EPA has led to some profoundly disturbing developments. Under Pruitt, the agency has already dismissed five members of a major scientific review board as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the role of academic research and cater to industry interests. And President Trump is pushing to cut the EPA budget dramatically, while also demanding that many of President Obama’s environmental initiatives, like the Clean Power Plan, be rolled back.
A Proud History
There’s no doubt about it — Pruitt and Trump are bad news for the environment. We need a robust, independent EPA driven by science and fact now more than ever. Since it was founded in 1970, the EPA has done a remarkable amount of good combatting pollution, safeguarding clean air and water, and protecting our health. Let’s take a look at seven highlights from the past 47 years.
Item number 1
Protecting the Air We Breathe
The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and amended a couple of times since. We at Ben & Jerry’s are 100% in favor of breathing, so it’s pretty awesome that the EPA has, for example, helped to cut smog, mercury emissions, and acid rain dramatically.
Item number 2
Protecting the Water We Drink
Rivers are not supposed to catch on fire. But that’s what happened in Cleveland in 1969. As it turns out, pumping sewage into our waterways decade after decade is a really bad idea. The Clean Water Act changed everything in 1972, but many are worried that, with Pruitt, we could be headed back to the bad old days.
Item number 3
Saving the Bald Eagle
DDT is an insecticide that was used widely starting in the 1940s. It was effective fighting malaria, but research indicated that it also posed some serious health risks. In fact, DDT nearly led to the extinction of our national symbol, the bald eagle. Eagles, falcons, and other birds began bouncing back once the EPA banned it in 1972.
Item number 4
Cleaning Up Toxic Waste
All over the country, communities must deal with the legacy of industrial pollution and toxic waste. After the Love Canal disaster in upstate New York, President Carter signed a bill that authorized the EPA to hold polluters accountable and work with them to clean up these dangerously polluted “Superfund” sites.
Item number 5
Healing the Ozone Layer
Everybody needs sunscreen. Even the Earth! But thanks to the rampant use of ozone-depleting substances, like the CFCs in aerosol sprays, the ozone layer, aka the Earth’s “sunscreen,” was being severely damaged. Thanks to EPA regulations and international cooperation, the ozone should be be fully recovered by 2065.
Item number 6
Promoting Energy Efficiency
You probably recognize that little blue label. Energy Star was launched in 1992 to rate computer-monitor efficiency, but today you can find those labels on dozens and dozens of products. The EPA says that the program has saved consumers and businesses $34 billion and prevented 300+ million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. And now Trump, for some reason, wants to eliminate it.
Item number 7
Fighting Climate Change
Let’s just cut to the chase: climate change is real and it’s happening right now. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The EPA then started working to do just that, which was music to the ears of all those who care about having a habitable planet. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a crucial component of our effort to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement, relied on the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. But now? The new fossil-fuel-friendly administration is doing all it can to diminish the EPA’s power and authority, putting our Paris Agreement goals, and the planet’s health, at risk.
The EPA has played an essential role over the past 47 years in protecting public health and the health of our environment. Efforts to reduce its effectiveness and influence could not possibly be coming at a worse time. We’ve taken to the streets to stand up for science and to fight against climate change, and now we have to keep the pressure on.