Angry Callers have EPA Phones, Ears Ringing
March 11, 2017
More indications that climate denial is no longer a politically risk-free strategy.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s phones have been ringing off the hook — literally — since he questioned the link between human activity and climate change.
The calls to Pruitt’s main line, 202-564-4700, reached such a high volume by Friday that agency officials created an impromptu call center, according to three agency employees. The officials asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
By Saturday morning calls went straight to voice mail, which was full and did not accept messages. At least two calls received the message that the line was disconnected, but that appeared to be in error.
Before the number was disabled, interns were dispatched to answer some of the incoming calls, according to one employee. At times, calls to that number ended up going to voice mail.
EPA did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
While constituents sometimes call lawmakers in large numbers to express outrage over contentious policy issues, it is unusual for Americans to target a Cabinet official.
Note: now it’s John Cook PHD – and he’s right here in the USA at George Mason University.
There is no immediate evidence that any environmental organizations organized the deluge of calls to the new EPA administrator, but a single comment on Reddit may have helped spur the outpouring of criticism. The post outlined how Pruitt’s opponents could contact his office, writing:
“Here’s the number to call his office (EPA Office of the Administrator) to offer your feelings about Pruitt’s comments: (202) 564-4700. Script: Hi, my name is _________. I’m calling because I’m seriously concerned about Scott Pruitt’s claim that CO2 is not a major driver of climate change. The role of CO2 and humans as drivers of climate change is widely accepted among the scientific community, and I’m deeply concerned that Mr. Pruitt, as the head of the EPA, rejects scientific evidence.”
In confirmation hearings, Pruitt seemed to soften his hard edged climate denial. That was a ruse.
Now that he has the job, it appears Pruitt never really meant what he said. He has already broken the following promises:
1. To recognize climate reality
Pruitt told Senators that EPA’s conclusion that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare “needs to be enforced and respected” and that “there is nothing that I know that would cause a review at this point” of this scientific conclusion. But now all the sudden, Pruitt is expressing deep doubts about EPA’s rigorouslysubstantiated conclusion.
2. To stand up for science
Pruitt also assured Senators that “science must serve as ‘the backbone’ of EPA actions.” Yet just weeks later, he’s expressing views on carbon pollution and climate change that directly contradict those of scientists at NASA, the National Academy of Science and every major American scientific organization — all of which base their findings on decades of intensive, peer-review research and data.
3. To fight all forms of pollution
Pruitt’s misleading testimony isn’t limited to climate pollution. In Senate testimony, he suddenly claimed concern about dangerous pollution like mercury, smog and methane, after building his political career by suing the EPA 14 times to block safeguards for these and other types of pollution. But his change of heart seems to have been brief. This week, at the request of companies that want looser pollution rules, Pruitt withdrew an EPA request for information about methane pollution from oil and gas drilling operations. This after claiming at his confirmation hearing that he was “concerned” about the impact of methane pollution. How genuine can that concern be if he doesn’t even want companies to collect the information?
4. To enforce clean air and water rules
Pruitt claimed to want to “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.” But he and the White House are planning to recommend unprecedented cuts to the Agency’s budget, which has already been cut by 20% in recent years. Now the Administration reportedly wants to cut it by another 24%, according to CNN. That won’t save much money — of every ten dollars the government spends, EPA gets two cents — but it will severely damage programs that keep our air and water clean.
5. To be consistent on states’ rights
In his hearings, Pruitt repeatedly claimed to favor greater authority for states. But he is reportedly considering whether to revoke California’s right to have stronger clean air standards for cars. Mr. Pruitt apparently believes in states’ rights when it suits his industry allies. He seems to think states have the right to choose more pollution, but not less.
This is important — beyond our desire to have public officials with integrity. The EPA has made America a far clean and healthier place since it began its work in the 1970s. The Clean Air Act alone saves 220,000 American lives a year and prevents 2.4 million asthma attacks. The agency’s work on clean water and toxics and other pollution issues save many more. A politician saying whatever gets him the next job is disturbing enough. But when our kids’ health is at stake, it’s unconscionable.
The head of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped down, departing the government with a lengthy letter to Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator, urging him not to kill the agency’s programs.
Mustafa Ali, a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator at the agency, worked to alleviate the impact of air, water and industrial pollution on poverty-stricken towns and neighborhoods during nearly a quarter century with the EPA. He helped found the environmental justice office, then the environmental equity office, in 1992, during the presidency of President George H.W. Bush.
Ali leaves the EPA as Pruitt, who took office Feb. 17, prepares to implement deep cuts in the agency’s budget and staff. A Trump administration proposal would cut the EPA’s $8 billion budget by $2 billion and reduce its roster of 15,000 employees by 20 percent. An internal memo obtained by multiple news outlets on March 1 called for a complete dismantling of the office of environmental justice and elimination of a number of grant programs that address low-income and minority communities. A story in the Oregonian reported that funding for the office would decrease 78 percent, from $6.7 million to $1.5 million.