Editorials

At the EPA, forecast is bad for protective regulation

Remarks by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, seen here on Jan. 18, about climate change put him at odds not only with other countries around the globe but also with the official scientific findings of the agency he now leads.
Remarks by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, seen here on Jan. 18, about climate change put him at odds not only with other countries around the globe but also with the official scientific findings of the agency he now leads. The Washington Post

Donald Trump was stumped last November. He’d won an election he hadn’t thought he’d had a chance of winning, and as a maverick in a party to which he had little loyalty and in which he had few allies, he had no “team” to prepare for his ascension to the presidency.

And so instead of gathering his advisers and paring down lists of people to serve in his Cabinet, he scrambled and held meetings in Trump Tower and at his golf club in New Jersey for a parade of possible administration appointees. The result of this hasty and unexpected process was not ... well, unexpected.

Trump’s choices were uninspired, from Jeff Sessions, a hard-right Alabama senator with hardly a distinguished legal background as attorney general, to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary, to run the department he’d once vowed to abolish if elected president and to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

All appointees, of course, were designed to send the signal to Trump’s anti-government followers: Don’t worry, we’re going to strip down the government. Fear not, developers. Rest easy, big business. And all you human rights crusaders — get ready to climb some steep hills.

Pruitt’s doing his part to follow marching orders, having now decided to replace half of the members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises the agency on the quality and direction of its research. Pruitt’s long been a critic of the agency, though his position as a state attorney general hardly lined him up to have a lot of expertise on environmental policy, which Trump pretty much vowed to weaken in the name of letting industries do as they please without fear of investigations and fines and the like.

Pruitt may find some business-friendly scientists to go on this prestigious board, but the likelihood is that he’ll simply let the positions go vacant. He’d likely have trouble finding appointees anyway.

Trump’s made it clear he cares little for science and less for regulation. In Trumpworld, business can do no wrong and regulation to protect the environment is not about maintaining clean air and water and the longevity of the planet for generations to come. It’s just an annoyance.

Americans must simply hope that the next president can go about rebuilding what Trump is beginning to tear down — and that there will not be some kind of environmental crisis in the meantime.

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