Author Archives: Martha Roberts

Five takeaways from Scott Pruitt’s reported proposal to revoke the Clean Power Plan

Today, a draft proposal emerged of the latest step in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s attack on clean air and climate security – a proposal to revoke the Clean Power Plan, America’s only nationwide limit on carbon pollution from power plants.

The proposal offers no commitment to do anything to address dangerous carbon pollution from existing power plants – our nation’s largest industrial source of this harmful pollution.

Here are five key takeaways from the proposal that emerged today.

1. Devaluing the health and well-being of all Americans

The Clean Power Plan would deliver tremendous benefits to American communities by reducing harmful pollution. For example, EPA estimates the Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks every year once it is fully implemented.

But in a vivid example of how little Administrator Pruitt prioritizes public health, this proposal uses discredited methods to justify the view that premature deaths and other significant health impacts from harmful air pollution don’t exist and don’t matter. It even undercuts the harms we face from carbon pollution by using methods at odds with leading experts, including the National Academy of Sciences.

Administrator Pruitt is trying to paint over the fact that undoing the Clean Power Plan will expose Americans to dirtier air, and will delay urgently needed action to address climate change.

Asthma attacks, heart attacks, floods and storm surges, wildfires, droughts, and heat waves hurt real people. EPA has a responsibility to protect the public — but Pruitt has made a priority of protecting the fossil fuel interests that have propelled his political career.

2. Repeal-without-replace

Across America, the past weeks of extreme weather have provided a tragic reminder of the threats we face from climate change. Hurricanes exacerbated by climate change – like Maria, Harvey, and Irma – have left millions reeling, with lives lost and communities profoundly disrupted for years to come.

Yet the draft proposal makes no commitment to protect Americans from dangerous climate change. Instead it “continues to consider” whether to protect Americans from carbon pollution from existing power plants (ignoring settled law that EPA must issue safeguards against climate pollution under the Clean Air Act – as the Supreme Court has already concluded three times.)

Administrator Pruitt chastised others for asking about climate change after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit, saying the timing was “insensitive.” But at that same time, he was working to roll back our nation’s most significant effort to protect Americans from climate change.

3. America should be moving ahead on clean power – not going backwards

Power market trends are moving towards cleaner power sources, creating jobs and shared economic prosperity across the country.

More and more evidence shows that achieving the Clean Power Plan’s goals will be even cheaper than expected. Yet Administrator Pruitt’s draft uses accounting gimmicks to claim costs would somehow be higher than originally anticipated.

If anything, the Clean Power Plan’s targets should be stronger. But Administrator Pruitt now seems to be pulling out the stops to shield polluting power plants from taking any steps to reduce their harmful impacts.

4. Who benefits? Pruitt’s political allies

Scott Pruitt built his political career by suing relentlessly to block EPA safeguards, including the Clean Power Plan.

Pruitt’s campaigns and political organizations received extensive contributions from Clean Power Plan opponents, including $25,000 from coal company Murray Energy just one month before the Clean Power Plan oral argument.

Those Clean Power Plan opponents now stand to benefit from this draft proposal – at the expense of the health and safety of American families.

5. Americans speak out for the Clean Power Plan

When President Trump issued an executive order in March that threatened to roll back the Clean Power Plan, Americans across the country responded with an outpouring of support.

Groups supporting the Clean Power Plan included: faith organizations; health associations; at least 75 mayors, state governors, and attorneys general representing nearly half the U.S. population; power companies; and leading companies like Apple, General Electric, and Walmart.

A similarly broad and diverse coalition has been defending the Clean Power Plan in court –including eighteen states and sixty municipalities across the country; power companies that own and operate nearly ten percent of the nation’s generating capacity; consumer and ratepayer advocates; and many others.

In a recent nationwide poll, almost 70 percent of Americans expressed support for strict limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants – including a majority of Americans in every Congressional district in the country.

Please join us to fight for the Clean Power Plan. You can take action here.

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Extreme Weather, News, Policy, Science| Comments are closed

Americans speak up for clean cars at EPA public hearing

A public hearing today on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s effort to reverse America’s Clean Car Standards drew widespread support for keeping the protections in place.

I got the chance to join more than a hundred people who signed up to testify at the Washington, D.C. hearing – and they overwhelmingly spoke in favor of the Clean Car Standards and praised the benefits they provide for climate security and economic prosperity for our communities and families. (You can read my full testimony here.)

The American public stands to lose vital benefits if the Clean Cars Standards are reversed

The Clean Car Standards are already at work reducing climate pollution, driving innovative new technologies, improving our energy security, and saving American families money at the gas pump. But last month, the Trump Administration announced formal steps to begin reconsidering the existing standards for cars and passenger trucks for model years 2022 to 2025 – which could stop that progress.

Under the standards already in place, people who buy a new car or truck in 2025 would save thousands of dollars on fuel over the lifetime of those vehicles. In total, EPA projects that consumers would save more than $1 trillion because of the standards.

The 86 percent of Americans who finance their vehicle with a five-year loan are expected to immediately realize the cost savings from cleaner, more efficient vehicles. This is true even with recent lower gas prices.

Meanwhile, the Clean Car standards would reduce America’s oil consumption by two million barrels per day by 2025 – more than we import from any single country other than Canada. According to Ret. Lt. General Richard Zilmer:

Over-reliance on oil ties our nation to far-flung conflicts, sends our troops into harm’s way, and endangers them once they’re in conflict zones. Ensuring that the cars and trucks we drive every day go farther on every gallon of gas makes our nation stronger.

The Clean Car program would also eliminate an estimated six billion metric tons of carbon pollution over the life of the vehicles subject to the standards, which is more than a year’s worth of U.S. carbon emissions.

We’re making progress faster and cheaper than expected

EPA’s recent rigorous evaluation of the existing standards found that technologies are developing more quickly and at even lower costs than EPA originally projected – making the standards for the later model years appropriate and even more feasible than was first thought.

Per vehicle compliance costs are significantly lower than those projected in 2012 ($252 lower for cars and $197 lower for trucks as compared to 2012 projections).

 

 

Both the U.S. and world automotive markets are moving forward

Reopening the final Clean Car Standards will create uncertainty, slow innovation and hurt U.S. economic leadership.

Auto manufacturers have strongly recovered from the 2008 recession while increasing vehicle efficiency and cutting pollution

During the height of the economic recession in 2008, the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse. This prompted the Obama Administration to develop a bailout package for the industry, which provided the boost the industry needed to help rebound.

Last year, drivers in the United States bought more cars than ever before – roughly 70 percent more vehicles than during the recession – as fuel economy rose to its highest levels yet.

In total, the auto industry has added nearly 700,000 direct jobs since the recession – supporting several million indirect jobs throughout the economy. Auto manufacturing jobs account for 40 percent of all net jobs added in U.S. manufacturing since the recession.

In a letter supporting EPA’s proposal to reaffirm the Phase 2 standards, the United Auto Workers (UAW) noted:

UAW members know firsthand that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards have spurred investments in new products that employ tens of thousands of our members.

Today, the auto industry directly employs millions of Americans and employment at auto dealerships is at its highest level ever. Automakers have recognized this strong financial performance in recent annual reports:

Our solid business results included record profits and an increased worldwide market share. Overall, we achieved our sixth consecutive year of both profit and positive operating-related cash flow, which enabled us to distribute $2.5 billion to our shareholders and grow our regular dividend by 20 percent. – Ford 2015 Annual report, Letter from Executive Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr.

2016 was the best year in its history of more than 130 years. — Daimler 2016 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter

[Fiat Chrysler] closed 2016 with another record financial performance … all of our segments were profitable and showed improvement over the prior year. – FCA 2016 Annual Report, Letter from the Chairman and the CEO

As so many testified today, Americans want to move forward on clean cars.

At EDF, we're committed to holding Administrator Pruitt accountable if he recklessly rolls back these common sense standards. We hope you'll join us and take action for Clean Cars.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, News, Policy| Comments are closed

Pruitt six months in: “taking a meat ax to the protections of public health and environment and then hiding it”

In Scott Pruitt’s six-month tenure as President Trump’s EPA Administrator, his administration has firmly established a reputation for secrecy and for glossing over conflicts of interest.

This pattern of making decisions behind closed doors and stocking EPA with industry representatives is problematic for many reasons, but most importantly because so many of those decisions are putting our health at risk.

Former EPA Administrator Bill Ruckelshaus — appointed by Presidents Nixon and Reagan —described Pruitt’s tenure thus far:

[I]t appears that what is happening now is taking a meat ax to the protections of public health and environment and then hiding it.

Pruitt’s troubling pattern of behavior has even caught the interest of the EPA’s Inspector General, who recently opened an investigation into Pruitt’s repeated travel to Oklahoma at taxpayers’ expense. And one of Pruitt’s handpicked appointees, Albert Kelly, was just penalized by a federal banking agency for “unsound practices” in his previous position as a bank CEO.

Weakening safeguards across the board

As we’ve documented, Pruitt has a troubling record of attacking public safeguards without providing any opportunity for public input – including protections against toxic wastewater, oil and gas pollution, climate pollution, and safety risks at major chemical facilities.

Pruitt took aim at limits on smog that would prevent 230,000 childhood asthma attacks every year. He tried to unilaterally delay these standards without any public input on his decision, until eventually he backed down in the face of legal and public backlash.

Pruitt also suspended enforcement of existing standards for pollution from oil and gas facilities without any public input. Pruitt’s announcement did not even mention the harmful health impacts from halting implementation of pollution controls for 18,000 wells across the country. Earlier this month a federal appeals court overwhelmingly rejected Pruitt’s move as illegal after a panel decision that deemed Pruitt’s actions “unlawful,” “arbitrary,” and “capricious.”

Undermining enforcement that holds polluters accountable 

A recent analysis of EPA’s enforcement program showed that penalties against polluters have dropped by a remarkable 60 percent since the Inauguration. Not holding companies responsible for their pollution has tangible impacts in the form of more pollution, more illness, and more avoidable, early deaths.

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget calls for a 40 percent cut to EPA’s enforcement office, which would further hamper EPA’s ability to hold polluters accountable. Meanwhile, EPA overall would face a 30 percent cut, which also puts public health at risk.

Pruitt sometimes tries to mask his focus on rolling back important EPA initiatives. For example, he claims to be concentrating on cleaning up contaminated land through EPA’s Superfund program, yet the Trump Administration’s budget proposal would cut Superfund by more than 30 percent.

Pervasive conflicts of interest

In Pruitt’s former role as Oklahoma Attorney General, he was exposed for cutting and pasting industry requests and sending them to EPA on his official stationary. He shamelessly responded by calling his conduct “representative government in my view.”

At EPA, Pruitt and his most senior advisors are now driving vital decisions about public health notwithstanding clear, severe conflicts of interest.

As just one example, Dr. Nancy Beck, the senior political appointee in EPA’s toxic chemicals office, recently left her prior position at the chemicals industry’s main trade association. In her current role at EPA, she has a key role in implementing the new reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act passed last year. In this capacity, Dr. Beck is making decisions that directly affect the financial interests of companies she represented in her previous position on issues on which she advocated for the chemical industry as recently as earlier this year. The unsurprising result? Important protections are being weakened or reversed.

Pruitt’s lax approach to ethics may also extend to his travel schedule. Pruitt’s travel records show that he traveled repeatedly to Oklahoma at taxpayer expense, straining EPA’s limited resources. (Some sources have speculated that Pruitt’s extensive travel may be a run up to a future Pruitt campaign for political office in Oklahoma.) As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, EPA’s Inspector General has now opened an investigation into the matter

Pruitt’s appointment of Albert Kelly is another example of how he seems to tolerate behavior that other administrations would find unacceptable. Pruitt appointed the former banking CEO to lead a task force on Superfund cleanup sites. As we mentioned earlier, just this week Kelly was sanctioned by the FDIC, which issued a lifetime bar against his participation in any future banking-related activities and noted violations that involved Kelly's "willful or continuing disregard for the safety or soundness of the bank" where he was CEO. Nonetheless, Pruitt continues to entrust Kelly with the responsibility for leading efforts to reform management of the billion-dollar hazardous waste clean-up program.

Pruitt’s pattern of secrecy

This summer Pruitt won the Golden Padlock Award, given by investigative reporters and editors to recognize the most secretive U.S. agency or individual.

Robert Cribb, chair of the Golden Padlock committee, noted:

Judges were impressed with the breadth and scope of Pruitt’s information suppression techniques around vital matters of public interest.

Pruitt has overseen the elimination of important climate science resources that EPA previously made publicly available on its website. EDF recently received more than 1,900 items from EPA in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for climate-related information and data deleted from, or modified on, EPA websites.

Even the basics of how Pruitt spends his business hours, and with whom he spends them, are hidden from the public. Contravening a bi-partisan EPA transparency practice, Pruitt no longer makes senior management calendars — including his own — available to the public. The website comparison below highlights this sudden change:

EPA’s website on January 19, 2017

And the same page today

The start of Scott Pruitt’s term as EPA Administrator has been marked by continuous attacks on our public health safeguards and government transparency. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that Pruitt is keeping Americans in the dark about his actions, because the more we learn, the more we see reasons to be outraged. The American public deserves better from the senior leader in charge of protecting our health and welfare from dangerous pollution.

Posted in News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Read 2 Responses

The Trump Administration outlines its plans for EPA – and it’s bad news for our health

Across Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regularly identified and shared with the public a detailed list of the agency’s upcoming priority policy actions – safeguards that will help protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, assure the safety of chemicals in everyday products, and provide for proper handling of hazardous wastes.

But the Trump Administration unveiled its first such blueprint last week – and it takes dead aim at fundamental public health and environmental safeguards that are essential to protecting our communities and families. It’s an agenda that would lead to more pollution, fewer common sense safeguards, and more asthma attacks and premature deaths in communities across the country.

Here are a few key targets in the Trump Administration’s plan to dismantle vital public health and environmental safeguards:

Imperiled: the Clean Power Plan. The blueprint reiterates the Trump Administration’s intention to withdraw the Clean Power Plan. The agenda indicates no intent to provide a replacement program to limit dangerous climate pollution from existing power plants – one of America’s largest sources of this harmful pollution – despite the growing urgency of climate disruption, and despite three separate Supreme Court decisions underscoring EPA’s duty to protect Americans from this harmful pollution. The agenda’s justification for rolling back the Clean Power Plan rests on faulty legal reasoning that has been forcefully rejected by legal experts and is at odds with EPA’s past practices.

  • What’s at stake? The Clean Power Plan is one of the most significant actions America has ever taken to combat climate change. EPA estimates that when fully implemented, it would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and up to 90,000 asthma attacks per year.

Imperiled: limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. The Trump Administration also underscored its plans to end existing limits on carbon pollution from new power plants – an important complement to the Clean Power Plan. Yet again, this announcement includes no intention for a replacement safeguard.

  • What would be the result? New fossil fuel-fired power plants, which have lifespans in the decades, and emit staggering quantities of carbon pollution over their lifetimes, could be built with needlessly outdated, lower performing technologies.

Imperiled: pollution controls for oil and gas facilities. The Trump Administration’s plan also commits EPA to review pollution limits on new oil and gas facilities. These limits include measures for leak detection and repair – measures that save otherwise wasted natural gas, reduce pollution in surrounding communities, and create well-paying jobs. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already taken steps to suspend these protections. His actions meant that more than 18,000 natural gas wells across America were no longer required to fix pollution leaks. While Administrator Pruitt’s suspension was recently found unlawful by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the threat remains that EPA may fully revoke these important safeguards.

Imperiled: protections for Americans from smog. The Trump Administration’s plan also highlights Administrator Pruitt’s decision to suspend his duty to identify the regions that are failing to meet national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog. Smog is a dangerous air pollutant linked to premature deaths, asthma attacks, lower birth weight in infants, and serious heart and lung diseases. EPA analysis indicates that Administrator Pruitt’s announced one-year suspension alone will lead to as many as 230,000 more asthma attacks among children.

Imperiled: protections for downwind communities from interstate air pollution. EPA has a long-standing responsibility to ensure that upwind facilities are good neighbors and do not discharge pollution that imperils public health in downwind states. The Trump Administration’s blueprint recognizes that there are six separate petitions pending before EPA in which downwind states are seeking the agency’s assistance to protect themselves against pollution drifting into their communities from dozens of upwind power plants. It is crucial that EPA carry out this responsibility to ensure that all Americans can breathe easier – but the agency is currently failing to act, and its blueprint provides no commitment to act despite clear legal responsibility under our nation’s clean air laws.

Changes to underlying EPA transparency protections

At the same time that the Trump Administration’s blueprint outlines a host of rollbacks for important pollution controls, it also identifies that the administration will be moving ahead with changes to underlying, fundamental EPA procedures and operational practices.

Here’s just one example:

  • Under review: EPA’s open records requirements. Under the Freedom of Information Act, EPA is required to share public records with the public. The Trump Administration’s agenda notes that EPA will be updating its own policies for implementation of the agency’s requirements under this vital transparency law. During Administrator Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General, he had an extensive, troubling record of stonewalling these types of open records requests.

These changes are just as important to watch carefully, to ensure essential transparency and rigor in the administration’s conduct. So far, Administrator Pruitt has given ample reason for concern: shutting the public out of key decisions; refusing to share how he spends his time and with whom he meets; and a long history of intertwined relationships with the industries he’s supposed to oversee.

Are more rollbacks possible? President Trump and Administrator Pruitt signal yes

The above summary is hardly complete. The Trump Administration’s blueprint also highlights a host of harmful potential rollbacks for important protections for water, hazardous waste, and beyond.

Moreover, this blueprint may not reflect the full scope of future attacks. In other contexts, President Trump and Administrator Pruitt have taken aim at even more EPA protections against air pollution. For instance, President Trump has signaled his willingness to reconsider standards for emissions from cars and trucks – despite their record of saving consumers money, driving auto innovation, and reducing pollution. And Administrator Pruitt’s EPA has moved to pause litigation over mercury protections while the agency evaluates its position. (In the past, Pruitt even expressed doubt about mercury pollution’s well-established harmful impacts on brain development in kids.)

These risks are critical. But together we can turn back these threats, ensure healthier lives for all Americans, address dangerous climate pollution, and grow our clean energy economy.

Here at EDF we will be working to stop these rollbacks. Please join us, and take action! Click here to let EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt know that you support America’s public health and environmental protections.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Health, News, Policy| Read 1 Response

Pruitt listens to industry — not the public — on important decisions that affect public health

My EDF colleagues and fellow attorneys won an important victory for public health this month when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an effort by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to suspend vital limits on oil and gas pollution. 

There’s an important detail to this story that you might have missed. Turns out the public got no opportunity to provide any feedback on Pruitt’s decision, even though it put their health at risk. Instead, Pruitt abruptly declared he was granting this suspension through a letter to industry, with no formal notice given to the public until well afterwards — and no opportunity provided for public input.   

Unfortunately, this is just one example of a consistent pattern of conduct. Again and again, Pruitt has shut the public out of key decisions while giving a direct line to industry laggards and their allies.

Public safeguards undermined without public input 

Early in his tenure, one of Pruitt’s very first actions was to withdraw a request for information on pollution levels from oil and gas facilities — acting unilaterally, with no advanced notice and no opportunity for public input.

Most of what we know about Pruitt’s decision comes from Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, who has battled pollution safeguards while fundraising from fossil fuel interests, mirroring Pruitt’s approach as Oklahoma Attorney General.

Paxton openly bragged about his role in driving Pruitt to eliminate this information request:

I personally handed him the letter, and the next day the rule was personally withdrawn.

While Paxton got an opportunity for input, the public never had a chance to weigh in on this decision. Not surprisingly, Pruitt’s announcement hailed the withdrawal’s benefits for the oil and gas industry while ignoring Americans’ right to know about harmful pollution from oil and gas facilities.

A pattern of shutting out everyday Americans

This practice has been repeated across different sectors and different safeguards.

Pruitt delayed the implementation of health-based limits on ground-level ozone, commonly called smog, without any opportunity for public input. The standards would prevent 230,000 childhood asthma attacks every year.

Pruitt delayed toxic wastewater standards for power plants without public input. Same for a program to manage risks of accidents at petroleum refineries and other major chemical plants.

A recent rollback request from the landfills industry called for a delay to important improvements to pollution standards that had not been substantially updated in 20 years. The request was granted via a letter from Pruitt to industry representatives with no opportunity for public comment — and formal public notice wasn’t provided until more than two weeks after the delay was granted.  

Who is guiding Pruitt’s decisions? The public is in the dark

Pruitt has made the unusual and troubling decision to end public access to his calendar and the calendar of senior EPA managers in spite of a bipartisan EPA history of making those calendars public. Without access to the calendars, it’s impossible to know who is meeting with the Administrator or his senior staff — and who is informing their decision-making.

What little information we’ve learned about his calendar is that it’s been “filled” with meetings with industry interests. Many of these meetings are with the same individuals or companies benefiting from his rollbacks. In just one example, Pruitt gathered with the American Petroleum Institute board of directors behind closed doors early in his tenure, soon before rolling back oil and gas protections.

Pruitt’s intertwined relationship with major industry interests goes back to before he became EPA Administrator to his time as the Attorney General of Oklahoma. In a 2014 exposé, he was documented copying and pasting industry requests and sending them to EPA, nearly word for word, on Oklahoma Attorney General letterhead. Pruitt has defended this conduct as “representative government in my view,” begging the question of who Pruitt thinks he’s supposed to represent.

Industry representatives in senior leadership

Pruitt isn’t only hearing from industry voices outside the agency. Within EPA, his leadership team is filled with former industry representatives.

In just one recent example, the agency’s new senior deputy general counsel, Erik Baptist, was previously a top lawyer at the American Petroleum Institute — which has been lobbying, among other things, to repeal EPA safeguards that reduce harmful methane pollution from oil and gas operations. Baptist is just the latest example of the pervasive conflicts of interest among Pruitt’s senior staff.

Accountable to the law 

Fortunately, Pruitt’s practice of leaving the public in the dark is getting pushback. The recent D.C. Circuit decision in the oil and gas methane case is an important step in holding him accountable to the law. Pruitt must listen to all voices — including those of members of the public — as he makes decisions with serious implications for public health and welfare. 

 

Posted in EPA litgation, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

Scott Pruitt keeps Americans in the dark on his activities

In the few months of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure, we’ve already seen ample cause for concern when it comes to how he spends his time – a steady stream of meetings with major industry, together with rollbacks that harm communities and put children’s health at risk.

Last week, we learned that Administrator Pruitt gathered with the American Petroleum Institute board of directors at the Trump Hotel early in his tenure, just weeks before carrying out a host of actions to benefit oil and gas polluters. Just one of those actions — delaying implementation of a national smog health standard — will alone will result in 230,000 more asthma attacks for kids.

These actions have been taken with no meaningful public input or engagement. Meanwhile, the intermittent information we glean about Administrator Pruitt’s calendar and his schedule underscores his extensive meetings and visits with major industry.

Underlying these distressing developments, there’s something even more fundamental at play. How has the American public learned how Administrator Pruitt, a taxpayer-funded public servant, spends his time? How have we gotten information on the company he keeps?

Under past EPA Administrators, the calendars of senior managers — including the Administrator — were released to the public via accessible, concurrent platforms.

Troublingly, Scott Pruitt has ended this practice. We’ve only gotten information about his activities through intermittent information shared with the press, or months after the fact through time-consuming, burdensome Freedom of Information Act requests.

EDF calls on Pruitt to follow long-standing EPA practice and make his calendar public

EPA has an important job to do on behalf of the American public — protecting our health and welfare from dangerous pollution. Without timely information on the activities and schedule of Administrator Pruitt and his senior staff, members of the public cannot have full confidence that EPA’s leadership is working on their behalf.

Administrator Pruitt’s lack of transparency raises serious questions about potential abuse of EPA’s limited resources for activity that contravenes or is in serious tension with important legal and ethical requirements.

That’s why today EDF called on Pruitt to make his schedule, and that of his senior officials, available to the public on a widely accessible platform. Administrator Pruitt should immediately carry out this fundamental transparency practice, followed by EPA administrations of both parties. EDF is simultaneously submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain this information — a public record — in order to assure that the public at least obtains more up to date information on Pruitt’s activities.

EPA is supposed to operate “in a fishbowl”

The important transparency practice of sharing senior policy leaders’ schedules has a long history at EPA.

In 1983, William Ruckelshaus — the first EPA Administrator — was brought back to lead EPA by President Ronald Reagan in order to restore public trust after the scandal-plagued tenure of Administrator Anne Gorsuch. One of Administrator Ruckelshaus’ first actions was to issue was his “Fishbowl Memo,” which vowed that EPA would “operate in a fishbowl” and “attempt to communicate with everyone from the environmentalists to those we regulate and we will do so as openly as possible.”

Ruckelshaus’ Fishbowl Memo adopted as EPA policy a number of specific activities that are the hallmark of fair and transparent government. In particular, Ruckelshaus included a commitment to share senior leadership schedules as the Memo’s very first transparency directive:

In order to make the public fully aware of my contacts with interested persons, I have directed that a copy of my appointment calendar for each week be placed in the Office of Public Affairs and made available to the public at the end of the week. The Deputy Administrator, and all Assistant Administrators, Associate Administrators, Regional Administrators, and Staff Office Directors shall make their appointment calendars available in a similar manner.

This commitment to transparency and public access to EPA calendars has continued across administrations. For example, Administrator Lisa Jackson echoed this commitment upon her arrival, writing that “[t]o keep the public fully informed of my contacts with interested persons,” she would make available to the public, every day via the EPA website, “a working copy of my appointment calendar, showing meetings with members of the public.” She directed her senior staff to do the same. Administrator Gina McCarthy and Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe similarly continued this practice.

Yet Administrator Pruitt has ended the foundational transparency measure of making his and his senior policy leaders’ schedules readily available to the public. The policy change is illustrated by these two snapshots of EPA’s website from six months apart.

EPA’s website on January 19, 2017:

And the same page today:

A true back to basics approach

Pruitt has recently made a show of focusing on “EPA Originalism” and getting EPA “Back to Basics.” We suggest he follow long-standing EPA practice and the guidance of EPA’s original Administrator, William Ruckelshaus. Pruitt should make his calendar, and those of his senior leadership, widely and promptly available to the public.

Posted in Health, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Read 1 Response
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