Environmental Protection Crisis

Remember a few months back when we discovered that any mention of climate change had been removed from the EPA's website? Right. Well, as you might have guessed, things have not gotten better since then. The EPA crafted by Trump has consistently acted against what the agency stands for. Led by a crew of climate change deniers and people with questionable connections, the only thing protected by the Environmental Protection Agency is the profits of industries and corporations.

The new leaders of the EPA have conflicts of interest so obvious it would be funny if the consequences weren't so severe. The agency's administrator, Scott Pruitt, proclaimed himself during his time as Attorney General of Oklahoma as a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda," and proved himself correct by suing the agency at least 14 times for its protective regulations. Now an employee of the EPA, Pruitt retains his status as an enemy of the agency. He has asserted on several occasions that there is no consensus on climate change (there is) and that humans' role in it is unclear (it's not). Pruitt is a widely known friend of the fossil fuel industry, as evidenced by thousands of recently-surfaced emails with oil executives asking for input as well as his overt exclusion of scientists in policy decisions. Under any other administration he would be a bafflingly terrible choice for the head of the EPA, but Pruitt, unfortunately, is just one of many EPA heads whose record is less than favorable towards the environment. He is among others like Michael Dourson, a former consulting company executive with ties to Dow Chemical, Chevron and Koch Industries who now heads the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution, and William Wehrum; an energy industry attorney appointed an assistant administrator for Air and Radiation.

In less than a year under the new administration, the EPA has revoked decades of crucial environmental protections. Claiming to be refocusing on the agency's core mission of clean air and clean water, Pruitt has targeted regulations that protect those resources, like the Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Plan, which regulates greenhouse gas emissions. Industries say it is easier and less costly to them to dump waste in the air and water, and Pruitt graciously lends a hand by dismantling any hurdle that stands in their way.

Pruitt's handling of the EPA is not only disastrous for the environment, but is also putting people's lives in danger. He chose to reverse a ban on pesticides that have been linked to damaging children's nervous systems and has failed to enforce a rule that would prevent explosions at chemical plants. The EPA, with the help of another chemical industry insider whom the agency now employs, also made it harder regulate and keep from water supplies a chemical that has been linked to a variety of serious health problems.

The EPA as it stands today is in crisis. It can no longer be trusted to act in the best interest of the environment or the health and safety of the American people. We are at a crucial point in the battle against climate change and cannot afford to wait years for a new administration who recognizes it as a problem. In the absence of proper national leadership, local leaders across the US, including Ithaca's own Mayor Svante Myrick, are stepping up and showing their commitment to protecting the environment by honoring the Paris Agreement and continuing to do their part to promote sustainability. Until the EPA comes out of its Dark Age, we have to look for good environmental policy a bit closer to home.

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