Thursday, July 20, 2017

Whistleblower Speaks Out as Pruitt Tries to Destroy EPA

We saw an amazing pair of events happen this week that highlight how industry lobbyists are attempting to eliminate the regulatory oversight that protects human health and the environment. A whistleblower tells of how he was "repurposed" to negate his expertise, and the EPA Administrator effectively admitted he is there to destroy the EPA.

The whistleblower is scientist Joel Clement, who up until recently was Director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Department of Interior. Writing in the Washington Post he says that he was "one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments." In other words, he was being moved away from his area of expertise. Clement goes on:

"Citing a need to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,” the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies."
Clement is not an accountant and was removed from a position in which he was effectively accomplishing the goals mandated by federal law, and now pressed into a position for which there is no need and in which he is not qualified.

The fact that this was done for 50 long-time employees by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke confirms that this was a deliberate attempt to eviscerate the regulatory goals of the department. Similar to tenured professors, civil service employees (i.e., professionals in their fields rather than political appointees) cannot be summarily fired without cause. To get around this inconvenient fact, political appointees like Zinke, on orders from Trump, "reassign" employees under pretense into positions where they are no longer able to do their jobs. The idea is to harass employees into quitting, or barring that, at least keep them from doing the work they are trained - and obligated by law - to do.

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt admitted he was hired to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency. On a conservative radio program in early July, Pruitt and Trump were being praised by the host, saying she liked what Trump had done by taking "a guy who wanted to get rid of the EPA - dismantle it - and put him in charge of it." Pruitt's response, "Ha. That's right."

For those who have forgotten, Pruitt is the former Oklahoma Attorney General who spent most of his tenure suing the EPA - the Agency he now runs - trying to block regulatory actions. He was caught copying fossil fuel lobbyist talking points verbatim onto Oklahoma AG letterhead and sending them in as official positions. Since taking over EPA he has worked hard to eliminate thousands of professional jobs, chop the EPA budget into ineffectiveness, and block environmental and human health protections.

During the interview, Pruitt claimed having taken "over 22 significant regulatory actions" since taking over the EPA. However, those actions were all to delay and reverse water, air, and climate regulations already in progress. Pruitt argues that he is trying to "right size" the EPA, but what he really means he is trying to eliminate EPA's ability to regulate industry. That means EPA will not be able to carry out its duties as mandated by law. In essence, Pruitt is intentionally trying to make EPA violate those laws.

Even more astounding, Pruitt admitted that his goal is to carry out Trump's political desire to promote "energy dominance," which they have defined as promoting oil and gas and coal (aka, fossil fuels). But that is not EPA's mandate. EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency. It's role is to promote protection of human health and the environment, not promote narrow industry interests.

These two incidents prove that Trump and his appointees are in direct violation of their oaths of office. They have placed industry profits (and their own interests) ahead of their departments' mandates to protect the public good. Both Pruitt and Zinke should be immediately removed from office for these gross dereliction of duty.

You can find contact information for U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate through this page. Both bodies of Congress have oversight committees with responsibility for EPA and the Department of the Interior (and other relevant departments like the Department of Energy). Contact them to express your outrage at the violation of oaths of office by Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke (and others).

Also, directories for the House and Senate.