Pruitt leads Trump’s economic war on the environment

The collective effects of the Trump administration’s numerous actions affecting Mother Earth may become catastrophic because the president and his sycophantic appointees, who are scientifically ignorant ideological zealots, have openly declared war on the environment.

The administration continually shows unfettered contempt for the environmental advances of the past 100 years enacted by Congress and implemented by past presidents. The attack is consistent with presidential advisor and anarchist Steve Bannon’s plan to “destroy the administrative state.”

Trump’s expressed view is that global warming is a hoax – the case of the pot calling the kettle black. Economic growth is a top priority of his administration. But, such growth stimulates the extraction and use of significant amounts of fossil fuels encouraging population growth and increasing future demand.

The EPA mission is simply: "To protect human health and the environment" which excludes the promotion of economic development or energy security or the glory of fossil fuels.

The declared war is lubricated by the ideology of growth economics, a social science, instead of biophysical economics – i.e., the reality that natural resources in addition to money and labor have economic value. Undeniably, the administration adheres to the philosophy of “business uber alles” in its Faustian pact with Wall Street, industry and the banking system.

A general in the war is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is gutting the agency, defunding science and slavishly serving the fossil-fuel industry.

The White House's 2018 budget proposal aims to cut EPA funds from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion – the 31 percent castration dwarfs that of other federal agencies. Climate science is a prime target: The program for reporting on greenhouse-gas emissions would be zeroed out, and the office responsible for drafting climate regulations would see its funds cut by nearly 70 percent. The Superfund program, which cleans up land contaminated by toxic waste, would be whacked by 30 percent, and the budget, also, cuts a set of state grants to clean up contaminated sites by 45 percent.

Pruitt has made it clear that his mission is dismantling the agency’s policies and programs.

On June 16, Pruitt ordered agency scientists to produce a new cost-benefit analysis demonstrating no quantifiable benefit to preserving wetlands; a process made over a few days with almost no record and no documentation.

Pruitt has already carried out an impressive list of corporate favors: He rejected the advice of EPA scientists and approved the use of millions of pounds of a toxic pesticide that causes neurological damage in children.

In a gift to Big Coal, he delayed tougher ozone air-pollution rules.

He plotted to kill Obama's signature climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan, designed to put America on track to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030. He rescinded the Clean Water Rule, allowing countless streams and rivers to be exempted from pollution controls. Then he undermined regulations on the release of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, from power plants and other sources.

His budget submission would cut money for scientific research in half.

Pruitt primarily relies on the advice offered by industry while ignoring his own scientists. Prior administrators have understood their role as the tough cop on the beat.

"You say yes to things that protect public health and the environment while growing the economy," explained Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator during Obama's second term. "But it's often about saying 'No, you can't dump that pollutant into the river. No, you can't run that coal plant without a scrubber.' "

In his first months as administrator, Pruitt met with almost no one from public-health or environmental groups. But for the fossil-fuel industry, he was readily available.

After taking office, he hosted British Petroleum's U.S. chairman at his office. The next day, he met with two top executives from Chevron Corporation to discuss regulatory reform. The day after that, he spent two hours mingling with 45 CEOs from oil-and-gas companies at Trump's D.C. hotel. On March 9, Lynn Good, chief executive of the utility giant Duke Energy, got 45 minutes with Pruitt to discuss "policy priorities." On March 28 and 29, Pruitt had a pair of 30-minute meetings with Bob Murray, the coal baron and Trump confidant and campaign contributor.

The country needs a far better chief executive who reads more, stops tweeting, and does not carry his China shop around with him.

Robert Fromer is an occasional guest contributor on environmental topics and a prior resident of New London. He now lives in Windsor.

 

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