We saw this coming with Scott Pruitt. Long before he became Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), his allegiances to industry were clear. And with new policies at the agency, he's paving the way for even more corporate sway over how our air, soil, water and communities are protected (or not).
In his latest move, Pruitt recently announced that scientists receiving EPA funding for their research will no longer be allowed to advise the agency's rulemaking. While conflict of interest rules have long been on the books, this change in policy is, he says, to "ensure independence."
But Pruitt has made no such decrees about corporate-backed researchers.
And as many national outlets report, he is anticipated to stack EPA advisory bodies — including the Scientific Advisory Panel, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and Board of Scientific Counselors — with representatives from the very industries whose products and practices are being reviewed. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) put it this way:
Pruitt is purging expert scientists from his science boards — and replacing them with mouthpieces for big polluters."
Welcome, foxes, to the hen house.
"Goodbye science, hello industry"
In his own words, Pruitt is "advancing a back to basics agenda." He is out to "reorient our thinking" and looks at environmental protections as using "the natural resources we've been blessed with as a country."
This approach has translated into weighting regulations in favor of corporate stakeholders. In his short tenure, he has already rolled back an estimated 50 environmental protections. He is driving the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. And he notoriously reversed EPA's decision to ban the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos in March after private meetings with pesticidemaker Dow Chemical.
In the Los Angeles Times — titled "Goodbye science, hello industry" — the Editorial Board wrote that the current administration is "seemingly bent on converting the EPA into a science-be-damned rubber stamp for industry." That's about right.
While Pruitt would package his approach as a sensible reduction in bureaucracy, in truth his actions undermine protections for health and the environment for the benefit of corporations. He is doubling down on extractive approaches to energy production and chemically-dependent agriculture even though clear, credible and independent bodies of science show there are better ways.
As the saying goes, "When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money.”
As long as Pruitt remains at the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency (and long after), we will use all of our energy and resources to protect healthy food, water, air and soil. And we are joined by many, many others. You in?
Photo: Gage Skidmore | Flickr