The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is simple: protect human health and the environment. And as we’ve seen, the EPA has done a pretty good job of doing just that over the past 47 years.
But things are getting pretty weird at the EPA these days. It’s getting to the point where that old tried-and-true mission might need to be revised. Now that the EPA is led by longtime anti-EPA crusader and friend of the fossil-fuel industry Scott Pruitt, how does “protect polluters and corporate interests no matter what” sound instead?
Not a Laughing Matter
Putting someone who hates the EPA in charge of the EPA reads like some kind of practical joke, and you almost have to admire the Trump administration for its expert-level trolling—but really, the joke’s on us. We need a fact-based, pro-science EPA, an independent EPA, a fully staffed and focused EPA and we need it right now. Why? Here are just a few reasons:
- We need clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe.
- We need hazardous waste to be cleaned up.
- We need to make sure that pesticides don’t poison us.
- We need to keep corporations from polluting the environment.
- We need to combat climate change.
In a perfect world, there’d be no reason to have to fight for such reasonable things. This, however, is not a perfect world, and we know that without the EPA polluters would pump toxins into the air and elsewhere. And we know that because before the EPA that’s exactly what happened. We had smoggy skies, burning rivers, acid rain, and so much more.
Corporations Over People
So what does the current administration have against clean air, clean water, and reducing carbon emissions? Well, there are definitely a lot of ideological and personal factors in the mix, but the simplest and most direct answer is: money—unchecked corporate campaign cash. Pruitt has always been cozy with the fossil-fuel industry, which has more recently taken a liking to President Trump as well, who of course often made his pro-coal feelings known on the campaign trail. (But if he thinks dismantling climate change protections is going to save the industry, he’s sadly mistaken.)
Wealthy corporate donors have been backing anti-environmental and climate-change-denial groups for a long time—and now, in Trump and his appointees, not to mention a Congress that embraces a similar ideology, their investment has paid off. Want evidence? Take a look at some of scary things going on at the EPA right now:
So what’s the latest:
- It was announced that 1200 employees would be offered buyouts this year, and the prospect of future, even more drastic job cuts looms.
- The administration has proposed cutting up to 31% of the EPA’s budget. Everything from criminal enforcement to hazardous waste cleanup would be impacted, but there seems to be a particular focus on slashing funding for science. The Office of Science and Technology, for example, would be cut nearly in half and those employees who oversee environmental regulations would see funds drop by around 40%.
- Trump and Pruitt are rolling back many of President Obama’s environmental regulations, including rules on carbon emissions, a moratorium on federal coal leases, and guidelines that instructed federal officials to take the impacts of climate change into account when making decisions.
- In ways large and small, in public and behind the scenes, science is under attack. “They do not want objective science,” says economist Peter Meyer, who resigned in protest last month.
- Climate-deniers are leading the agency and influencing administration policy. So it’s no surprise that climate change information is being removed from the EPA website. Nor was a it a shock, of course, when Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
But Here’s the Good News...
Yes, Trump has done a lot of things that we think are terrible for the country and the environment. But we absolutely LOVE what may wind up being his biggest accomplishment: inspiring a massive surge of energy and participation in the environmental movement. People are out in the streets and speaking to their leaders at home and in Washington, DC, to demand action. Governors and mayors are pledging to support the Paris Climate Agreement no matter what the president says.
We feel excited, we feel invigorated—people are coming together to make change happen. For nearly 50 years the EPA has fought to protect human health and the environment. We cannot let that legacy be undone. Put people and the planet before profit.