EPA transition leader says the agency is ‘an impending disaster for Trump’
Gutting the EPA’s budget, science, and regulations is not enough for climate-denying conservatives.
Dr. Joe Romm, Founding Editor of Think Progress, May 22, 2017
“This is an impending disaster for the Trump administration.” That’s how Myron Ebell, the climate science denier who oversaw the transition team for President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, described the state of the agency to a conservative conference, according to tapes obtained by Reuters.
Ebell’s concern is not the dramatic, unpopular cuts Trump will reportedly serve the EPA in his forthcoming budget, or how those cuts will be received by the American people and Congress. He thinks they don’t go far enough.
The actions taken thus far by the Trump administration to gut the EPA budget, to prevent EPA from relying on science in its decision-making, and to undo regulations aimed at protecting public health and a livable climate have already led to the agency’s own staff “openly mocking” Trump’s “callous” policies, as one retiree explained. But for conservatives like Ebell, the disaster is that the administration, and particularly EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, are doing far too little.
What has this wing of conservatives so upset they are attacking Pruitt, despite the fact that he rejects and misrepresents mainstream climate science and has already embarked on the most radical rollback of basic environmental protections since the EPA was created?
“Paris and the endangerment finding are the two big outstanding issues,” Ebell said at the conference. “It’s the first wave of things that are necessary to turn this country around.”
In Ebell’s eyes, the impending disaster is that the administration isn’t moving fast enough to kill the Paris climate deal and the 2009 EPA finding that carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare.
The landmark Paris climate agreement is quite simply humanity’s last best hope of averting catastrophic climate change and the needless suffering of billions of people for decades to come. The Trump administration has waffled for months on whether to formally withdraw the U.S. from the unanimous 2015 deal between nearly 200 nations to reverse global CO2 emissions trends.
But even if Trump doesn’t formally pull out of the Paris agreement, the efforts already undertaken by Trump and Pruitt to gut domestic climate action would make it all but impossible to avert disaster.
And that’s where the endangerment finding comes in. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in the case Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases like CO2 are pollutants which EPA can regulate under the Clean Air Act — and that in fact, the EPA must regulate CO2 if a review of the science concludes that carbon pollution does endanger public health or welfare.
Now even back in 2009, scientific observations and analysis made it painfully obvious that CO2 was in fact a grave danger to humanity. Recent scientific assessments have only solidified the case that failing to curb CO2 emissions risks “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” as the world’s leading scientists and governments concluded back in 2014.
And the science is even stronger today.
But many conservatives believe that if EPA doesn’t formally undo the agency’s 2009 endangerment finding, then its efforts to kill Obama’s CO2 regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan, will be ultimately overturned in the courts. The reality, however, is that what Trump and Pruitt are doing is not likely to be overturned by the Supreme Court, especially with Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch to break any tie votes.
Nonetheless, conservative media continues to publish articles like this Breitbart piece from April, “Environmental Groups Ask EPA to Rescind Obama’s ‘Endangerment Finding’.” Under the term “environmental groups,” however, Breitbart includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which is where Ebell serves as director of the Center for Energy and Environment.
To Ebell and CEI — source of the infamous “CO2: they call it pollution, we call it Life!” ad — any admission that CO2 is harmful to humans is apostasy.
So, since Pruitt hasn’t made any effort to undo the endangerment finding (yet), he is letting conservatives down and risking “impending disaster.”
Such is the Orwellian world we find ourselves in, where it’s a disaster we aren’t moving even faster toward disaster.