"It's just an acceptance...people are just resigned to having ill-health."
Donald Trump was elected President of the United States on November 8, 2016. With his election and the appointment of Scott Pruitt, former attorney general of Oklahoma, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental and clean energy activists knew they would be fighting many challenges to laws and regulations that the administration and the fossil fuel industry intended to roll back. Their fears and expectations have become reality. Mr. Pruitt’s actions—budget cuts, animosity towards career staffers, dismissal of staff recommendations—have demoralized EPA employees who are scientists, analysts, researchers, and lawyers, who possess expertise in their fields and who have served both democratic and republican administrations throughout their careers. Qualified, dedicated personnel have left the agency while Pruitt has filled a few key positions with industry insiders and fossil fuel lobbyists hostile to environmental protections and renewable energy technologies.
Donald Trump has taken executive actions to roll back Obama-era regulations and laws. Scott Pruitt has actively fought to destroy the EPA and its mandates over his long career in government. He is not only slowly dismantling the EPA and alienating staffers, but he also has ethical and spending issues. Pruitt is now under investigation over his profligate spending on the taxpayer dime, including but not limited to: booking first-class flights (at least $105,000 worth), flying on private and military aircraft, spending $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for his office as well as millions of dollars on a 20-person 24/7 security detail. None of his predecessors have had that level of protection.
Secrecy and industry ties make a mockery of his position as protector of the environment and, by extension, the health of U.S. citizens. Pruitt is accused of lying to lawmakers during his confirmation hearing about using a private email address to conduct business as Oklahoma’s attorney general and his alleged use of multiple EPA email addresses to currently conduct business is raising eyebrows. Pruitt’s closest aides received sizable salary increases while he refused pay raises for rank-and-file employees. He received a sweetheart deal on a D.C. condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist, he has deep ties to the fossil fuel industry and has used their studies to set policy or deregulate, while rebuffing input from environmentalists and scientists.
Here is a sampling of the actions the EPA under Scott Pruitt’s guidance has taken per Columbia Law School’s climate deregulation tracker:
April 30, 2018: EPA Issues Proposal to Restrict Use of Science in Rulemaking
January 4, 2018: DOI Proposes Expansion of Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
October 10, 2017: EPA Proposes to Rescind Clean Power Plan
August 25, 2017: Unified Agenda Lists Planned Deregulatory Actions
June 14, 2017: EPA Halts Development of Emission Guidelines for the Existing Oil and Natural Gas Sector
The above doesn’t include actions taken by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Department of the Interior (DOI), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other governmental departments to loosen regulations or repeal them. These actions range from the expansion of off-shore drilling,the review of national monuments with the goal to open those lands to oil and gas drilling as well as land development, and hitting the solar industry with a 30% tariff thus making it more expensive for Americans to go solar and crippling the industry. Fortunately, most of these actions are currently in the review process so are delayed or the courts have stopped them from being implemented or repealed.
So, what to do?
First, educate yourselves about the issues. Learn why and how the EPA came about, what its goals were and are, and how its actions over the decades have improved the health of our planet and the people living on it. Then seek information about existing problems and search for solutions to solve them. What are the costs and benefits of policies to both the fossil fuel industry—which will remain a part of any energy plan implemented in the near-future—and the clean energy sector. There is no way to eliminate the coal and oil industries immediately—if ever—and replace them solely with wind, solar, and other renewables. However, we need to invest and work towards a world in which renewable energy is the predominant means of meeting our energy needs.
Second, organize with like-minded people. Protests can have power, but also work within your community to encourage citizens to contact their legislators. Register voters, especially those interested in preserving the environment and embracing the new technologies and well-paying jobs that the clean-energy sector offers.
Third, as already stated above, make your demands known by reaching out to your legislators be it in writing (a letter or email) and these days, increasingly, via social media. My legislators are all on Facebook and Twitter. Put pen to paper then send editorials to your local newspaper, or shoot for the big-time publications, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Washington Post, or your state’s major publication.
Fourth, encourage your legislators to pressure the President to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. At the current moment, that may be a fantasy, but it never hurts to try. In lieu of U.S. participation in the climate accord, it behooves cities, towns, and states to act locally—as some are already doing—to help meet the Paris Climate goals set in 2015.
Lastly, vote. This is the most important action any citizen can take to engage in their community, state, and nation. Your vote matters, more than you know. If you desire change of any sort, you must make your voice heard via the ballot box. Otherwise, you are letting others make decisions that may negatively affect your life. Register to vote if you are not registered, then get out there and make a difference.
This is your world, your and your family's lives and well-being are at stake, so you must fight for it. Planet earth is our only home. We must protect it for generations to come.
I leave you with this:
- Barack Obama's Environmental Legacy: A Mixed Bag but Progress in the Right Direction
- The EPA is under attack...here's a reminder why it is important
- Trump is breaking the environment beyond repair
- A behind-the-scenes look at Scott Pruitt's dysfunctional EPA