Trump continues attack on environment and the EPA
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Just weeks into his presidency, President Donald Trump has already made decisions that indicate a clear shift in the United States’ environmental policy.
In his first days in office, Trump signed executive orders following through on campaign promises of advancing approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.
This last set of actions effectively dismantles former President Barack Obama’s efforts to block construction of both pipelines and flies in the face of public outcry against them.
Myron Ebell, Trump’s pick to lead the EPA transition team effort, is a noted climate change denier. Ebell also recommended that Trump’s administration should cut more than 10,000 jobs within the EPA.
Further, his nominee to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has previously sued the agency 14 times, is an established climate change denier, and has dedicated himself to fighting the EPA’s “activist agenda.”
During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt refused to recuse himself of involvement in current suits against the EPA.
With ties to fossil fuel proponents and major industrial companies, Pruitt’s ability to potentially advocate for clean energy and environmental safety standards in his capacity as head of the EPA is being called into question.
Anne-Marie Hanson, an assistant professor of environmental studies, expressed concern over these potential conflicts of interest.
“Having someone lead that agency who has sued them because of his own financial interests is clearly problematic,” she said.
Since these appointments, Trump has frozen EPA grants and attempted to bar agency staff from speaking to the press. Researchers are attempting to determine the scope of the grant freeze and have received little in the way of information.
This development, coupled with Trump’s public attitudes toward the EPA, has scientists questioning whether their research will be subject to denial or censorship by the current administration.
Hanson, whose research was affected by the grant freeze, predicts that the scientific community won’t go down easily, however. “He does not control everything that happens in that agency,” she said, “and there are career people who have been there who are not going to easily let him dismantle it.”
Trump is poised to make good on another campaign promise of pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which aims to address climate change through legally binding agreements with almost every country in the world.
Ebell has openly stated his belief that Trump intends to remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.
“Trump has made it clear he will withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He could do it by executive order tomorrow or he could do it as part of a larger package,” Ebell said in a press conference on Jan. 30.
“Just don’t believe politicians when they tell you that scientists are working against you,” said Hanson. “But even if you don’t care about the environment, you should care about yourself and your health.”