US Environmental Protection Agency

From Scandals to Secrecy, the Curious Similarities Between Trump’s and Reagan’s EPA

EPA chief Scott Pruitt

The Environmental Protection Agency's chief, a science skeptic with a taste for luxury goods, entered office hellbent on slashing government red tape — but slowly became embroiled in scandal over alleged mishandling of government funds amid extraordinary efforts to keep the activities of a public agency secret.

Not Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration's current EPA chief: Anne Gorsuch Burford, who ran the EPA under Reagan from 1981 to 1983, and resigned after being cited for contempt of Congress following a scandal involving document shredding, secrecy, and the Superfund.

A year into Pruitt's tenure at EPA, some of the parallels between the two are striking.

In Trump's First Year, EPA Is Fining Polluters 49 Percent Less

Donald Trump with Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke

The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has seen a measurable difference in the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been holding polluters accountable compared to the past 25 years. Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA has collected, on average, 49 percent less in civil penalties against violators of federal environmental laws than in the first year of the previous three administrations, according to a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project.

President Trump’s dismantling of the EPA means violators are less likely to be caught, making illegal pollution cheaper,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement. “The president’s ‘law and order’ agenda apparently wasn’t intended for fossil fuel companies and other big polluters.”

Energy CEO Says Fracking Build-out in New York Not Over, Wants Regulators to 'Lay Down and Approve Every Pipeline'

Crestwood natural gas compressor sign in Seneca Lake, New York

At a pipeline industry conference in Pittsburgh on January 31, Robert G. Phillips, CEO and President of Crestwood Equity Partners, offered an unusually candid perspective on pipelines, fracking, environmental regulations, and how industry plans to fight back against public opposition and permitting problems.

This past May, Crestwood announced that it was halting plans for a natural gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes region of New York following a three-year civil disobedience campaign by grassroots activists and environmentalists who feared contamination of Seneca Lake, which supplies drinking water to roughly 100,000 New Yorkers. But as Phillips told the conference, the company isn't backing off for good.

“Now, this is hand-to-hand combat in this region,” Phillips told the crowd of oil and gas company representatives at the pipeline conference, dubbed Marcellus Midstream 2018.

Fines Against Polluters Drop Sharply Under Trump EPA

Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, and Mike Pence

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPAannounced Thursday its annual enforcement and compliance report that boasted $1.6 billion in administrative and civil judicial fines against polluters.

“A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes,” Susan Bodine, head of the agency's enforcement division said in a statement.

However, analyses show that the penalties against polluters are significantly lower under President Trump's EPA. According to The Hill, that $1.6 billion figure is roughly a fifth of the $5.7 billion in penalties collected the year before under President Obama's EPA.

Multiple Industry-Funded Nominations to EPA's Clean Air Advisory Committee

Clean air signs at a rally outside EPA's DC offices

This is a guest post by ClimateDenierRoundup.

Back in March, and then again in May, we flagged efforts by Pruitt and the GOP to bend the knee to the tobacco and fossil fuel industries and grant pro-pollution voices even more of a say on science advisory panels. One such panel is the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which according to its website, “provides independent advice to the EPA Administrator on the technical bases for EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”

The nominations for new members of the CASAC are in, and while most of the names look like solid scientists (.pdf list here), there are a few with affiliations and funding that might raise some eyebrows. (Fortunately, the public comment period is open, so interested persons have until September 18th to email their concerns to Mr. Aaron Yeow, designated federal officer, at [email protected].)

In First 6 Months Under Trump, Polluters Already Paying Lower Fines to EPA

EPA flag in front of headquarters

It hasn't taken long for Donald Trump to make his mark (well, many marks) on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the first six months in office, his EPA under Scott Pruitt has already seen a precipitous drop in enforcement for violators of major environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

So far, the Trump administration has collected 60 percent less in fines for civil lawsuits against polluters on average, compared to the previous three administrations.

Why Shifting Regulatory Power to the States Won't Improve the Environment

Power plant with a tall smoke stack

By Michael A. Livermore, University of Virginia

President Trump and his appointees, particularly Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, have made federalism a theme of their efforts to scale back environmental regulation. They argue that the federal government has become too intrusive and that states should be returned to a position of “regulatory primacy” on environmental matters.

We have to let the states compete to see who has the best solutions. They know the best how to spend their dollars and how to take care of the people within each state,” Trump said in a speech to the National Governors Association last February.

Some liberal-leaning states have responded by adopting more aggressive regulations. California has positioned itself as a leader in the fight to curb climate change. New York is restructuring its electricity market to facilitate clean energy. And Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, has ordered state environmental regulators to design a rule to cap carbon emissions from power plants.

State experimentation may be the only way to break the gridlock on environmental issues that now overwhelms our national political institutions. However, without a broad mandate from the federal government to address urgent environmental problems, few red and purple states will follow California’s lead. In my view, giving too much power to the states will likely result in many states doing less, not more.

Why Trump's EPA Is Far More Vulnerable to Attack Than Reagan's or Bush's

Smoke from smokestacks above cars lining a Cleveland road in 1973

By Walter Rosenbaum, University of Florida

For people concerned with environmental protection, including many EPA employees, there is broad agreement: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in deep trouble. The Conversation

The Trump administration has begun the third, most formidable White House-led attempt in EPA’s brief history to diminish the agency’s regulatory capacity.

In Planned EPA Cuts, US to Lose Vital Connection to At-risk Communities

Government employees hold signs at a rally in support of the EPA

By Deborah Morrison and Nicole Smith Dahmen, University of Oregon

Recent headlines point to a relentless undoing of policy and process within the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Trump budget calls for slashing the EPA budget by an estimated 31 percent. Staff would be reduced by 25 percent and 50 programs could see cuts, such as ones designed to lower the health risks from lead paint.

In all likelihood, the first communities to feel effects of a dismantled EPA are those who consistently pay the biggest price when policy strays from being focused on people. It will be the indigenous people, the populations who live in poverty and at-risk communities — often populated by people of color — who typically feel the sharp cuts and public health effects first and fully.

Trump's Energy and Climate Change Order: Seven Essential Reads

Coal mine on federal land in New Mexico

By Jennifer Weeks, The Conversation

Editor’s note: The following is a roundup of archival stories. The Conversation

On March 28 President Trump signed an executive order that launched a broad assault on policies put in place by the Obama administration to reduce carbon pollution. Trump’s order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw and rewrite the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. It also eliminates a number of other policies related to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Our experts explain the policies under assault and the impacts of this about-face.


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