If the ultimate goal of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is to destroy the government’s watchdog agency from within and keep the public in the dark about it, he’s doing a hell of a job.
Pruitt’s name has been all over the news in recent weeks, and none of the reports are favorable to the environment. On Wednesday, reports surfaced that Pruitt has so many people on his security detail that EPA investigators are being pulled from the field to be placed on that detail—a move that rightfully has agency employees indignant.
This news comes just after it was reported that Pruitt is pushing people out of the EPA with voluntary buyouts, early retirement offers, and budget cuts, as Gizmodo reported. More layoffs, buyouts, and budget cuts are expected next year.
On Saturday, two more unsavory reports about Pruitt were published. In the first, The Washington Post obtained Pruitt’s official schedule and discovered that after meeting regularly with corporate executives from various polluting industries, Pruitt made decisions that directly benefitted those companies, including rolling back EPA regulations.
Those industries include mining, automobile manufacturing, and utilities, among others. Rules that came into play include those protecting clean air and water, promoting renewable energy, and regulating greenhouse gas emissions. A statement by EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman published by the Post succinctly summarizes Pruitt’s position:
“As EPA has been the poster child for regulatory overreach, the Agency is now meeting with those ignored by the Obama Administration. As we return EPA to its core mission, Administrator Pruitt is leading the Agency through process, the rule of law and cooperative federalism.”
In another disturbing report on Saturday, the Associated Press revealed that the EPA has recovered 517 containers of “unidentified, potentially hazardous material” from Texas toxic waste sites after flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Yet, the EPA won’t release any additional information about those containers, where they were, or what they contained.
And it wasn’t for lack of trying. According to the report, the “EPA has not responded to questions from AP about activities at U.S. Oil Recovery for more than a week.” Oil Recovery is a former petroleum waste processing plant near Houston that is a Superfund site.
The announcement about the recovery of the containers was buried in a summary of the government’s response to Hurricane Harvey put out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday. The information is contained in a single paragraph that states:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, completed 625 drinking water assessments and 441 waste water assessments. The agency conducted assessments of 43 Superfund sites and recovered 517 containers of unidentified, potentially hazardous material.
The EPA’s stonewalling of the AP shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Associated Press journalists first began reporting on the flooding of Houston-area Superfund sites, and the absence of EPA inspectors in those areas, the EPA tried to bury its half–assed response to those allegations, and then attacked the credibility of the reporters who brought the story to light.
We shouldn’t expect anything less from this climate change denier, who seamlessly fits within the Trump administration. But that doesn’t make it any less horrifying.