Scott Pruitt defends massive cuts to EPA funding

This week has seen some utterly bizarre behaviour by Scott Pruitt who was appointed by the Trump administration to run the EPA. While attending a meeting of the House Appropriations subcommittee that was reviewing the proposed 2018 budget for the EPA, he proceeded to stand up and defend the cuts that would in effect completely gut his agency.

In essence, his stance is that the proposed cut of $2.4 billion, which represents about 31% of his entire federal funding, would be just fine and not a problem. This is perhaps the largest proposed defunding within the 2018 budget for any agency. In this context the reality of Mr Pruitt’s stance of “we can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trimmed budget” will result in them making thousands of their employees redundant and also eliminating some rather vital projects.

Details of the Proceedings

Dennis Brady, an environmental journalist, writes about the proceeding within the Washington Post and outlines how members from both parties not only expressed complete exasperation and bewilderment at the idea of such a cut but resisted the proposal. This is because there is a recognition by these representatives that the work that the EPA truly does matters and makes a real different, both economically and also environmentally, for millions of people.

“I’ll get straight to it. The fiscal year 2018 budget request for EPA is a disaster,” said Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), adding that it would “surely impact EPA’s ability to fulfill its critical mission of protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Ken Calvert (Calif.), and several other Republicans also were quick to distance themselves from many of the administration’s proposals, saying Congress is unlikely to go along with such deep — and deeply unpopular — cuts to environmental programs around the country.

“You have a tough job here today,” Calvert said. “This budget proposes to significantly reduce or terminate programs that are vitally important to each member on this subcommittee. … This is perhaps not how you personally would craft EPA’s budget, but it’s a budget you have to defend here today.”

When Lowey asked how the administration could justify eliminating a program aimed at investigating the link between chemicals and possible endocrine system problems in humans and animals, Pruitt did not try to do that. “You raise a very, very, important question,” he replied, noting that the 20-year-old program has had a “significant impact” and asking for the lawmaker’s input on how it could be “restored and/or addressed in a different way.”

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) said the EPA’s program aimed at cleaning up the Great Lakes region, which Trump would defund entirely, had helped communities revitalize waterfront areas and created jobs. “Cleaning up the lakes isn’t about correcting mistakes from the past, but creating new opportunities and a brighter future for our shoreline communities,” he said, adding that the proposed budget “would cripple our collective efforts, halt the progress we’re making and undermine investments we have made.”

Should we care about the EPA ?

If an agency has a specific remit and mission that is focused upon …

  • Unwarranted pesticide exposure
  • Air quality
  • Water quality
  • Cleanup programs for polluted sites
  • Radon detection
  • Lead-risk reduction
  • Restoring the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound environments

.. and much more are programs that you care about, then you should care about this. All of the above EPA activities are now in peril due to the proposed budget cuts.

EPA under Pruitt’s leadership is already losing the plot

Within the pipeline that was a regulation that was specifically designed to address the emission of pollutants such as methane and benzene. The EPA under Pruitt’s leadership has now announced that this regulation will not be implemented. To be specific, it has been put on hold for two years to enable them to have enough time to reconsider it.. In other words, they want to kill this regulation.

Yes, not doing this will indeed help the oil and gas industry, and yes methane is a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Climate Change however is not the motivation for such a regulation, instead basic public health is. One of the pollutants addressed by the proposed regulation, benzene,  is known to cause cancer, especially in younger children.

The EPA, under Administrator Scott Pruitt — who sued against the rule while Oklahoma attorney general — said in April that it would formally review the rule, a lengthy process that could take years to complete. Such a measure is subject to lawsuits as well.

… hence the response to this is wholly appropriate …

Environmental groups have sued the Trump administration over its decision to pause the rule, saying the agency doesn’t have the power to issue such a stay. 

Final Thoughts

If even Republicans who previously criticised the EPA for overstepping its regulatory authority during the previous administration, are now choking and pushing back on the budget cuts, and are actually taking a stance alongside Democrats against the gutting of the EPA, then you can be sure that it is indeed a truly absurd proposal that is not in the interests of anybody except perhaps the various industries that would like to see all the environmental regulations vanish.

When historians looks back to this era, they will not be kind to either Trump or Pruitt. I’d suggest that if they struggle and are perhaps lost of words when it comes to describing the actions of both Trump and also Pruitt, then a good place to start would be with the term “clueless twits”.

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