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Trump's War on Science: EPA Bans Climate Change from Website


October 23, 2017
Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch & the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative

In its blind commitment to deny climate change, the Trump White House has ordered the website EPA's website revamped. The website previously included a section titled "Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments." Now, it's simply called, "Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments." Fifteen mentions of the term "climate change" have been scrubbed from the original main page alone. The old site contained 380 pages of content; the new site has only 175 pages.

https://www.ecowatch.com/epa-climate-website-2498932391.html

New EPA Climate Change Website
Doesn't Mention 'Climate Change'

Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch

(October 21, 2017) -- In the Trump administration's ongoing efforts to pretend that climate change doesn't exist, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made dramatic changes to a website catered to helping states, local and tribal governments learn about global warming and how prepare and respond to the impacts of our hot new world, according to a new analysis from the watchdog group Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI).


Scroll to right for full image.

As you can see in the screenshot above, the website site was previously titled "Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments." Now, it's called, "Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments." Fifteen mentions of the term "climate change" were scrubbed from the original main page alone, and the old epa.gov/statelocalclimate URL even redirects to epa.gov/statelocalenergy.

But that's not the only change -- the old site consisted of about 380 pages of content, while the new site consists of about 175. The current website leaves out vital resources including information on how local governments can invest in clean energy, curb emissions and adapt to extreme weather conditions.

EDGI, which has been closely tracking changes to federal websites since President Trump took office, noted that this is the first example of returned content since the EPA began overhauling its climate change website on April 28.

"Large portions of climate resources that were formerly found on the previous website have not been returned, and thus have ultimately been removed from the current EPA website (though many of these resources can still be found in the January 19 snapshot of the EPA website)," the organization explained. "The new website launch was done without an accompanying news release and the decision not to include particular climate resources was not explained."

As EDGI pointed out, "The continued removal of Web content makes it more difficult for the public and for state, local, and tribal governments to access climate-related Web resources. Moreover, without clear notice from the EPA explaining its decision to remove information and resources, website users may be confused as to why the removals were necessary: was the removed content inaccurate or is there some other kind of justified change in priority or policy?

This lack of transparency in the EPA's website overhaul process harms the public's understanding of our government's operations and is a concerning indicator for the possible future mishandling of Web resources to come."

Gina McCarthy, former EPA administrator under President Obama, criticized the website overhaul.

"There is no more significant threat than climate change and it isn't just happening to people in far-off countries -- it's happening to us," she said in a statement to the New York Times. "It is beyond comprehension that EPA would ever purposely limit and remove access to information that communities need to save lives and property. Clearly, this was not a technical glitch, it was a planned shutdown."

The EPA did not respond to the Times' requests for comment on the EDGI report.



THE FIRST 100 DAYS AND COUNTING
Series editors: Rebecca Lave and Sara Wylie

EDGI is producing a series of reports on the early days of the Trump administration. In these reports, EDGI authors systematically investigate topics including the historical precedents for Trump's attack on the EPA, consequences for toxics regulation and environmental justice, the influence of the fossil fuel industry on the new administration, changes to the public presentation of climate science, and the new administration's hostility to scientific research and evidence.


THE EPA UNDER SIEGE
TRUMP'S ASSAULT IN HISTORY AND TESTIMONY


The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) is an organization comprised of academics and non-profit employees that promotes open and accessible government data and information along with evidence-based policy making.

The EPA Under Siege is the first part of a multipart series on the early days of the Trump administration. In this series, EDGI authors systematically investigate historical precedents for Trump's attack on the EPA, consequences for toxic regulation and environmental justice, the influence of the fossil fuel industry on the new administration, changes to the public presentation of climate change, and the new administration's hostility to scientific research and evidence.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Executive Summary
2. Introduction
3. Precedent #1: The Early-Reagan Attack on the Environmental State
4. What Ended the Gorsuch Era
5. Precedent #2: The Harper Administration in Canada
6. Just Before Trump: An Agency Already in Decline?
7. The Trump Administration Compared
8. Can the EPA Survive?

9. Appendix: Interview Compendium

I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Trump administration currently poses the greatest threat to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its entire 47-year history. Twice before, presidential administrations in North America have targeted their own environmental agencies with comparable aggression, in the early Reagan administration (1981-1983) and under Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2006-2015).

Trump's assault is on track to surpass these. Successful challenges to these earlier attacks provide pointers for those hoping to uphold the EPA's mission of protecting human and environmental health today, Republicans and Democrats alike. Our analysis draws upon deep digs into historical literature and archives as well as sixty interviews with current and former EPA and some OSHA employees.

Key points:
* In its early decades, the EPA enjoyed bipartisan support, growing under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

* The greatest exception was the first Reagan administration (1981-1983).

* Trump's attack has mirrored Reagan's in its reliance on appointing administrators with corporate ties who decry government "overreach", including his first EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch; an executive order undermining stringent environmental protections, by requiring cost-benefit analysis of new rules by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); reorganization to break up the EPA Office of Enforcement; and proposals for deep budget and staff cuts.

* Impacts: During Reagan's first two years, Anne Gorsuch along with OMB director David Stockman succeeded in reducing the EPA budget by 21% and staff by 26%. Enforcement actions also dropped dramatically: civil cases referred from the regions to headquarters, for instance, fell by 79%.

* The early-Reagan assault on the EPA ended after only two years, because of: revelations of conflict of interest, lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and more, via Congressional investigations and subpoenas, investigative reporting, and leaks; resistance from former and current employees, working through a "Save EPA" group and a new employee union, along with environmental and community groups; and political pressure from mounting public disapproval.

* Reversal: By late 1983 Gorsuch and 21 other political appointees had resigned and the Reagan administration was seeking to restore the agency's leadership, resources, and mission.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's administration (2006-2015) also anticipated Trump in targeting science as well as the environment. Harper did so in an era of solidifying consensus among scientists about human contributions to climate change, when the need to shift energy usage away from fossil fuels was becoming ever more apparent.

Harper's attacks on environmental regulation came coupled with others on Canadian science and scientists: the Harper administration reversed Canada's approach to climate change, and undermined environmental initiatives in general.

It also significantly cut funding for federal laboratories and research programs, monitored and in some cases prohibited federal scientists from speaking publicly, deleted content from federal environmental websites, and closed federal environmental libraries.

Successful challenges to the Harper Administration took longer to materialize. From 2011, Canadian residents protested and formed organizations. Both science and the environment then emerged as key issues in the 2015 campaign season, which ushered in current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Trump administration's overt challenges to the agency are compounding the effects of a quieter, longer-term erosion of support. The EPA has been shrinking in budget and staff size since the Clinton administration. Its peak staff size came in 1999, and its FY 2016 budget of $8.1 billion represents 9% fewer real dollars than the Agency received in 2006. Congressional Republicans have already been targeting the EPA's Science Advisory Board.

* In its first few months, the Trump administration has subjected the EPA to provocations and pressures surpassing those of Reagan's early months:

* Appointments like that of Scott Pruitt, who combines hostility to EPA "overreach" with greater experience than Gorsuch.

* Speeches and publicity that ignore or contest the agency's basic mission and that pledge overt allegiance to regulated industries.

* Multiple executive orders asking the agency not just to favor fossil fuels but to rescind two existing rules for every new one (with assessments based only on compliance costs and not on calculated benefits); reevaluate the rest of agency rules for "burdensomeness"; and reorganize with a view to downsizing.

* Proposals for steep budget and staff cuts beyond what even Anne Gorsuch first ventured, especially targeting climate, international collaborations, environmental justice, and enforcement programs; scientific research; and grants to states for implementation and enforcement.

* Marginalization, monitoring, and suspicion of career employees. Morale has plummeted, and many describe a deep anxiety about their own careers and the future of environmental protection and the EPA.

Our historical analysis singles out key determinants of the EPA's future:
* Reviving a bipartisan coalition to support the agency in Congress offers the first, best hope for thwarting this administration's destructive plans.

* Since hearings in the Republican-led House and Senate are unlikely without demonstrated malfeasance or scandal, current and former EPA employees, Congressmen and their staffs, investigative journalists and media, environmental groups and other professionals and activists need to:

* Keep a public spotlight on the environmental and science-related actions of the Trump administration and their consequences.

* Better illuminate the long-standing importance and historically bipartisan support of this agency in protecting the health and wellbeing of people and the environment.

* Environmental, climate, and community groups need to mobilize effectively to support the EPA's environmental protections, science, and integrity, via media, protests, courtrooms, and the ballot box.

II. INTRODUCTION
The election of Donald Trump this past November has launched federal environmental policy into a fraught new era. The guiding rhetoric of the Trump team during the campaign and over its first few months in office has often been sweepingly hostile to environmental regulation.

Presidential advisor Steve Bannon talked of the "deconstruction of the administrative state," and the leader of the environmental transition team, Myron Ebell, publicly speculated that the EPA could be cut by two-thirds.[1]In decisions and actions as well, from executive orders to appointments to budgeting and reorganization proposals to their rejection of the Paris climate accord, the unfolding approach to our environmental state under Trump has broken dramatically not just with Obama's policies but with those of many earlier administrations.

Both Republican and Democratic presidents of the last half-century have helped build up or support our environmental agencies and laws, albeit via differing measure and means. With Trump, this bipartisan legacy, already increasingly under siege in recent years, confronts its severest challenge yet.

The Trump Administration's effort to curb environmental regulation, while a striking departure from decades of presidential practice in the US, resembles two other aggressive attempts to shrink the federal environmental state: the early Reagan Administration (1981-1983) and the Harper Administration in Canada (2006-2015).

While neither matches it perfectly -- historical parallels should never be mistaken for crystal balls -- they nevertheless offer instructive comparisons. In this chapter, we review and analyze these earlier examples, and use them as touchstones for evaluating Trump's first months in office. We also consider what these previous instances may suggest about the road ahead under Trump.

Our analysis focuses primarily on impacts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is the largest federal agency charged with environmental regulation, with a FY 2016 budget of $8.1 billion and a 2016 workforce of 15,376 employees.

By contrast, in FY 2016, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) received just over $1 billion with 3,800 employees, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received only $553 million with a workforce of just over 2,100.

The Department of Interior, less a regulator than our custodian of federal lands, does have a current-appropriations budget that is significantly bigger, of $13.2 billion. The EPA nevertheless remains among the largest federal agencies devoted primarily to regulation, although its shrinking workforce during the Obama administration made it slightly smaller than the Food and Drug Administration.[2]

Both Republican and Democratic presidents of the last half-century have helped build up or support our environmental agencies and laws, albeit via differing measure and means. With Trump, this bipartisan legacy, already increasingly under siege in recent years, confronts its severest challenge yet.

Our analysis is informed by 60 interviews with current and former EPA and OSHA employees, conducted by eight EDGI researchers across the country.[3]These interviews are part of a larger, ongoing EDGI study of the effects of changing political administrations on the EPA and OSHA (see IX. Appendix: Interview Compendium).

Facing budget cuts and reorganization that could cripple enforcement activities, rulemaking, scientific activities, and data and informational access, EPA officials we've interviewed testify to plunging morale inside the agency as well as considerable anxiety about its future.

Even as the new agency Administrator Scott Pruitt promotes a "back to basics" agenda, longstanding career employees significantly doubt his and other political appointees' commitments to the EPA's fundamental tasks of protecting public health and the environment, and voice profound concerns about the new leadership's approaches to environmental problems, especially climate change and industrial pollution.

For all the bipartisan support or acceptance that the agency has enjoyed through earlier decades, pushback on the agency's mission is also not new. As we will see, long-term employees remember a host of earlier challenges to funding and staffing as well as periodic political interference.

Even as all these have intensified in recent years, most interviewees characterize the Trump effect at the EPA thus far as fundamentally different from that of any earlier incoming administration. One long-time employee described the Trump transition as "an order of magnitude different," especially in its "overt hostility.""We've never experienced a transition like this," another told us.

Comparison with the early-Reagan and Harper administrations helps evaluate and contextualize the uniqueness of the threat posed by the Trump administration to environmental oversight and protection in the United States. Our research has led us to concur with our interviewees about the remarkably confrontational and extreme character of this presidential transition.

At the same time, we have come to appreciate how it also builds upon these earlier offensives. In addition, examining past assaults on the federal environmental state whose outcomes we now know illuminates what it takes to effectively defend environmental agencies and laws. We find important lessons there for those concerned about today's attacks, whether they are activists, scientists, lawyers, journalists, politicians, or part of a broader public.

Christopher Sellers, Lindsey Dillon, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Nick Shapiro, Marianne Sullivan, Chris Amoss, Stephen Bocking, Phil Brown, Vanessa De la Rosa, Jill Harrison, Sara Johns, Katherine Kulik, Rebecca Lave, Michelle Murphy, Liza Piper, Lauren Richter, Sara Wylie


PART 2
PURSUING A TOXIC AGENDA
ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IN THE EARLY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION


The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) is an organization comprised of academics and non-profit employees that promotes open and accessible government data and information along with evidence-based policy making.

"Pursuing a Toxic Agenda" is the second part of a multipart series on the early days of the Trump administration. In this series, EDGI authors systematically investigate historical precedents for Trump's attack on the EPA, consequences for toxic regulation and environmental justice, and changes to the public presentation of climate change.

Transcription of the interview with Mustafa Ali was made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

[Read the complete report online.]

TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. ABSTRACT
II. INTRODUCTION
* What Is Environmental Justice?
* Empty Promises: Environmental Justice and the EPA
* Small Improvements for Environmental Justice
III. INCREASING ENVIRONMENTAL INEQUALITIES UNDER TRUMP
IV. * More Environmental Risks for Vulnerable Communities
* The Dakota Access Pipeline Moves Forward
* Reversing a Proposed Ban on Pesticides in Agriculture
* Increasing Risks for Workers and Communities Living Near Hazardous Facilities
* Dismantling EPA Programs that Protect Disadvantaged Communities
* Weakening Lead Remediation and Education Programs
* Reducing Funding for Toxic Cleanups
* Limiting Collection and Access to Environmental Data
* Reducing Access to Toxics Release Inventory
* Uncertain Funding for the Integrated Risk Information System

V. CONTINUING THE STRUGGLE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
* The Importance of Environmental Justice Strategies Outside the EPA
* Improving the Future for Environmental Justice at the EPA
* Environmental Data Justice

I. ABSTRACT
Environmental justice (EJ) is at the nexus of many issues and institutions the Trump administration has promised to dismantle -- climate science, environmental protections, and industrial regulation. "Pursuing a Toxic Agenda" shows how the Trump administration has already reversed decades of environmental justice work, including hard-won progress under the Obama administration. In this report, we examine how the new administration's policies, proposed budget cuts, stated priorities, and political appointments will increase toxic burdens on environmentally impacted communities, including communities living near hazardous industrial facilities, and farmworkers at risk of pesticide exposure.

Specifically, EDGI identifies:
* Increased environmental risks for low-income communities from the Trump administration's:

* Support for the Dakota Access Pipeline

* Reversal of a ban on the agricultural pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which is known to cause developmental damage in children

* Changes to workplace safety regulations

* Dismantled environmental protections through:

* Weakened lead remediation and education programs

* Reduced funding for toxic cleanups

* Rollbacks in environmental data collection and access, necessary in struggles for environmental justice, by:

* Limiting access to toxic emissions data

* Cuts in funding and staff for toxics research and communication infrastructure

The Trump administration has not only moved to limit publicly available data on environmental contaminants and risks, it also restricted public feedback on rules relating to toxics.

Through proposed budget cuts and personnel reductions at agencies like EPA, including the proposed elimination of the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice, the new administration has crippled the government's ability to address environmental problems, including inequalities in toxic exposure. Rather -- as Hurricane Harvey recently made excruciatingly clear -- US environmental agencies and organizations need more resources and support to address the inevitable, and inevitably unequal, effects of climate change and other environmental disasters.

WHAT ARE EDGI'S RECOMMENDATIONS?

It is important to admit the failures of current and past administrations to enact environmental justice in order to reimagine how the government and civil society can address climate change, toxic contamination and systemic racism from a framework of justice. This could be done by:
* Recognizing that environmental justice is about more than addressing the inequitable distribution of risks. It also encompasses equitable access to environmental goods: the right to clean water, clean air, healthy environments and civil rights, for this and subsequent generations.

* Uniting environmental and social justice/civil rights communities and organizations through a shared focus on Environmental Injustice.

* Connecting the environmental and labor movements through issues of workplace safety and toxic exposures.

* Addressing climate change as an environmental justice issue.

* Forming grassroots networks to continue to research and aggregate data on environmental injustices.

* Developing new open source, academic and community platforms for gathering and analyzing environmental health information.

* Mobilizing financial support for the continued development of open environmental justice and climate change research.

* Organizing public funding, local initiatives, and private capital to build sustainable local energy supplies and petrochemical-free food systems.

The federal government can strengthen its commitment to environmental justice by:
* Allocating more resources to environmental justice programs, policies, and offices.

* Growing capacity and making linkages across expertise and experience.

* Making environmental justice a component of EPA and other government employees' job performance standards.

Environmental data justice is a critical component of environmental justice more broadly. Collectively, we need to rethink society's relationship with data, including critical questions of why, how, and for whom data is collected -- including who is (and is not) involved in the scientific process, and whose knowledge and expertise is valued (or devalued).

Environmental data justice focuses not just on collecting data or managing already existing data, but imagines how justice, inclusion and accessibility might be incorporated into environmental knowledge practices through the following overarching tactics:
* Creating alternative environmental data practices aimed at activating state and industry responsibility for environmental injustice and developing ways to hold them accountable.

* Encouraging communities to determine the kinds of data collected about their conditions, while being mindful that a world where communities are left to research their own precarity is its own kind of injustice.

* Embracing the creation of infrastructures and practices aimed at the critical assessment of data.

II. INTRODUCTION
Days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, the east Houston neighborhood of Manchester began to smell of gas.[1] Manchester is a community of color, home to a huge refinery, a metal shredding facility, chemical manufacturing facilities, as well as other heavy industries that emit toxic pollution.[2]

For decades, Manchester has been plagued with terrible air quality, and damage to chemical plants caused by Harvey has likely contributed to this toxic burden.[3] Hurricane Harvey has caused refinery explosions, and its flood waters are likely to leach chemicals from the region's large number of toxic Superfund sites.[4]

The toxic effects of Harvey result from the intersection of climate change with an existing landscape of environmental injustice. They indicate some of the ways climate change will be experienced unevenly across the US, and the need for the government to recognize and address climate change as form of environmental injustice.[5]

Environmental justice (EJ) activists have, over many decades, pushed the government to adopt policies and practices to protect vulnerable communities from environmental harms.

In 1991, in response to nation-wide mobilization of environmentally impacted communities, President George H. W. Bush created the Office of Environmental Equity (now Environmental Justice) at the EPA. President Bill Clinton issued an executive order in 1994 that requires all federal agencies to make environmental justice part of their mission.

Under President Obama, the EPA deepened its commitment to environmental justice by issuing Plan EJ 2014 and EJ Action Agenda 2020.[6]

"Pursuing a Toxic Agenda" shows how the Trump administration has begun to reverse decades of progress toward environmental justice. Significantly, the new administration's proposed budget for 2018 eliminates the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice entirely, a clear indication of this administration's priorities.

In this report, we examine how the current administration's policies, proposed budget cuts, stated priorities, and political appointments will increase toxic burdens on environmentally impacted communities, including poor communities living near hazardous waste facilities and farmworkers at risk of pesticide exposure.

In his first few months in office, Trump signed multiple executive orders to deregulate toxic industries, prioritizing economic profit over environmental and public health.[7] Through proposed cuts to scientific research and environmental enforcement, the current administration threatens the government's capacity to investigate and respond to the health effects of industrial pollution.

Trump's proposed budget also significantly reduces federal support for toxic waste cleanups, local air and water quality initiatives, and household lead reduction programs -- all environmental problems that disproportionately affect socially and economically marginalized communities.

"Pursuing a Toxic Agenda" is the second installment in EDGI's series of reports on the Trump administration, The First 100 Days and Counting. These reports feature collaborative academic work to provide timely, in-depth analysis of actions by the Trump administration that impact environmental health.

Our first report drew from over 60 interviews with current and retired EPA and OSHA employees, and situated the current, dramatic changes at the EPA in historical context. The report concluded that the Trump administration poses the most serious threat the EPA has faced in the agency's 47-year existence.

To situate this report, we begin with a brief chronology of environmental justice activism in the US, including how the EPA has adopted environmental justice principles -- albeit unevenly and not without criticism from environmental justice advocates.

The bulk of the report examines some of the ways the new administration -- in its first seven months in office -- has already placed vulnerable communities at greater risk of environmental harm. We present specific examples, including:
* The administration's support for the Dakota Access Pipeline

* Reversal of a ban on the agricultural pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which is known to cause developmental damage in children

* Changes to workplace safety regulations

* Weakened lead remediation and education programs

* Reduced funding for toxic cleanups

* Attempts to limit environmental data collection and access

We conclude with concrete recommendations for communities concerned with environmental justice -- from grassroots organizations to government employees to private sector actors to concerned members of the public.

fWe also conclude with a statement of values and aspirations for "environmental data justice," focusing on the important role of science, environmental monitoring, and data in the struggle to address environmental inequalities.

Community involvement in environmental research (for example, in framing research questions and conducting studies) and access to government datasets (such as pollution reports, health statistics, and geospatial data on race and income) are essential tools for community activists and democratic engagement more broadly.

WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE?
Executive Order 12898, signed by President Clinton in 1994, directs all federal agencies,
"[T]o make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing [...] disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations and low-income populations…"[8]

Only a few years before Clinton's executive order, which also created an Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, President George H. W. Bush had created an Office of Environmental Equity (now the Office of Environmental Justice[9]) at the EPA. These federal actions were hard-won outcomes of many years of grassroots organizing pushing the government to recognize the intersection of social inequalities and environmental problems.

In 1991, the National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit met in Washington, D.C., and drafted seventeen "Principles of Environmental Justice."

The Principles include "the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment," the need to "clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas," and the right of communities to "participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement, and evaluation."[10]

The Principles reflect the shared concerns of many different social groups at the Summit, stemming from civil rights, farmworker justice, and indigenous rights organizations.[11] According to legal scholars Cole and Foster (2001), "[un]precedented alliances were formed at the Summit and participants made conceptual linkages between seemingly different struggles, identifying common themes of racism and economic exploitation of people and land."[12]

[Read the complete report online.]

Contributors: Britt S. Paris, Lindsey Dillon, Jennifer Pierre, Irene V. Pasquetto, Emily Marquez, Sara Wylie, Michelle Murphy, Phil Brown, Rebecca Lave, Chris Sellers, Becky Mansfield, Leif Fredrickson, Nicholas Shapiro, EDGI

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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