Well, no one ever said transitions went off without a hitch. Changing entire teams of people and appointing new heads to different agencies tends to be a bit complicated, and sometimes things get changed around.
However, asking the Environmental Protective Agency to remove the page for climate change from its website is a big change (pun intended), with far-reaching implications.
That’s allegedly what the Trump administration told the EPA to do on Tuesday, January 24, or so allegations say. Employees of the agency were notified by EPA officials that the administration had requested the communications team at the agency to delete the climate change page from the official EPA website.
This move isn’t exactly unexpected; it’s just the next step by the Trump administration to eliminate the climate change initiatives put into place by the previous President, Barack Obama.
The sources from inside the agency asked to remain anonymous, not wanting to risk retribution from the administration for breaking a gag order put in place during the transition. Since then, the page itself has stayed more or less intact, seemingly contradicting reports.
In addition to the purported editing of the website, a statement given by Doug Erickson, a spokesman for the transition team, stated
that EPA scientists will likely have their work reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis before they are allowed to publish or present their findings. If such a system were to be enacted within the agency, it would directly contradict the scientific integrity policy put into place to prevent censorship and misuse of EPA findings.
The administration responded to the claims on Wednesday, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer stating: “No, there is nothing that has come from the White House. Absolutely, not.” This was in response to a question asking if the administration had sent out a mandate stopping the discussion of climate change.
President Trump has expressed doubts about the reality of climate change in the past, and previously called it a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive in a tweet back in 2012. He has since been more open to the idea, but has made it clear that companies and businesses’ interests come first. The removal of any and all reference to climate change on the official White House website when Donald Trump took office seems to be in keeping with his stance. President Trump has stated in the past that he will pull America out of the historic Paris agreement reached by
the United Nations in November last year. The agreement seeks to “undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.” Its goal is to limit warming of the atmosphere to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Signed by more than a hundred countries, included massive carbon polluters like the US and China, the agreement would essentially require the world to become ‘carbon-neutral,’ (abandoning fossil fuels), by mid-century or earlier.
The US leaving the agreement could inspire other countries to do the same, and could have serious impacts on the effectiveness of the agreement moving forward.
Trump has since backed off a little, stating that he has an “open mind” towards the agreement and that he is “watching it very closely.”
Meanwhile, the battle to confirm President Trump’s proposed head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, continues. Pruitt has been opposed to the EPA in the past, siding with business and fossil fuel companies in several cases. In his role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, he has either led or aided in 14 separate lawsuits against the Environmental Protective Agency. He has faced heavy opposition from many on the left and even a few on the right.
After a second day of Democratic senators boycotting the confirmation vote, Republicans suspended committee rules to push Pruitt’s confirmation through. Democrats point to his anti-regulation stance and concern that he did not adequately answer questions sent to him after his confirmation hearing. One such offense is apparent when he declined to say if he would excuse himself from ongoing cases against the EPA if he is confirmed as its new leader.
Opponents call attention to his substantial ties and financial support from the oil and gas industry, and his skepticism on the concept of climate change.
Their concerns are backed by nearly 450 former EPA employees, who urged Congress on Monday to reject Pruitt, and current EPA employees in Chicago, who participated in a downtown rally urging the Senate to reject the nomination.
“Our perspective is not partisan,” reads the letter from 447 former EPA employees who have served under Republican and Democratic administrations. “However, every EPA administrator has a fundamental obligation to act in the public’s interest…Mr. Pruitt’s record raises serious questions about whose interests he has served to date and whether he agrees with the long-standing tenets of U.S. environmental law.”
All of this turbulence leaves the EPA and climate regulations in the US in a state of flux. If Pruitt is confirmed as the head of the EPA, it will certainly have far-reaching and impactful
consequences. If he is denied, critics of his industry ties and anti-EPA mindset may get a chance for a more sympathetic candidate.
Americans must decide what they want to be done about climate change, and petition their senators to vote in their interests. They must make a decision; reject Pruitt and maintain the administrative and regulatory power of the EPA, or approve him, and weaken environmental regulations and clean air & water initiatives in exchange for more big business and fossil fuels.