The White House has undermined years of environmental protections and filled key leadership positions with appointees cozy with the fossil fuel industry, according to a staff report released Monday by the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The report from the office of Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) says the actions of President Donald Trump and his Cabinet members have started to roll back decades of environmental work crafted by prior administrations from both parties.
“In just one year, this administration has begun to systematically dismantle the environmental and public health protections Americans have relied on for a generation to protect their families from some of the most toxic, harmful pollutants known to man,” Carper said in a statement accompanying the report. “Under Scott Pruitt’s leadership, EPA is moving basically backward to what our country looked like before we had a federal environmental protector ― to a time when acid rain fell from the sky and the Cuyahoga River caught fire.”
The report was released the day before Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was set to appear before the committee for the first time.
Pruitt is expected to face tough questions from the Senate’s environmental committee on Tuesday, and many of its Democrats have already expressed their displeasure with the EPA’s leadership.
“We’re going to put a spotlight on the most anti-environmental EPA administrator in American history. We’re going to make it very clear how public health in America is under assault because of his terrible stewardship of the most important of all agencies,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told The Hill. “We’re going to try to make it more clear to the American people what the impact is of having someone like him at the EPA.”
The administration’s actions, often shepherded through by Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, have been well-documented over the past year. The EPA has moved to repeal the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule, and to phase out the Energy Star program for consumer products. The Interior Department has also proposed opening up offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans and gutted two protected national monuments in Utah.
“If you don’t step up and take care of real problems, and don’t do anything about it, lives will be sacrificed.”
Agencies throughout the federal government have also been staffed with appointees who are openly antagonistic toward science, or who previously worked for the industries they’re now meant to regulate. And the White House renominated Kathleen Hartnett White earlier this month after Democrats waged a last-minute effort to derail her appointment to the Council on Environmental Quality.
Republicans are “killing everything” when it comes to legislation meant to protect the environment, William Ruckelshaus, the first-ever administrator of the EPA, told HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman earlier this week. Other former administrators recently said Pruitt’s work has already set the agency back years, if not decades.
“It’s a threat to the country,” Ruckelshaus said. “If you don’t step up and take care of real problems, and don’t do anything about it, lives will be sacrificed.”
Carper seemed to echo such opinions on Monday.
“Thanks in large part to the actions highlighted in this report that undermine the core mission of the EPA, ‘the state of our environment’ is not nearly as strong as it should be,” the senator said in his statement.