Scandal-ridden, climate-change denying, industry-embracing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at last resigned, with yesterday being his last day. But as his last move at the EPA, Pruitt exhibited the same contempt for protecting the environment he has shown throughout his tenure as the top person in the Trump administration’s EPA. Of course the mission statement of the EPA is to protect the environment – it’s in the name of the agency, after all – but Pruitt has worked against that mission statement all along, much to the dismay of environmentalists, scientists, and the majority of the population of this country, but much to the delight of President Trump. Due to his ethics and spending scandals, Pruitt has been seen as likely to be fired or forced to resign at least since early April, but it took all this time because Trump liked Pruitt’s industry advocacy and was willing to overlook the ethical problems for all these months, until the political pressure finally became too great.
As his last act in office, Pruitt granted a loophole to what are known as “super polluting” diesel freight trucks, so that the EPA, at least through the end of next year, will not enforce the existing limit on the production of those trucks. And the EPA, continuing Pruitt’s ways, indicates it will work to permanently eliminate that limit. The “super polluting” diesel freight trucks, also known as glider trucks, combine older engines that do not meet current emission standards with newer truck bodies. Before the limit was created, some manufacturers were making thousands of these trucks a year and now will be allowed to go back to producing as many as they like, with no limit enforced by the EPA. According to The Hill:
The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday granted a loophole to allow increased manufacturing of a kind of diesel freight truck known as “super polluting.” The move, which came on embattled administrator Scott Pruitt’s last day on the job, is being harshly criticized by environmentalists and lung health advocates, according to The New York Times...Environmental groups have slammed the move, saying that the loophole will allow for dramatically increased air pollution from diesel trucks. The move came late Friday, hours after Pruitt submitted his resignation following a series of ethical scandals. Pruitt had long pushed for the loophole, saying that the EPA did not have the authority to tamper with manufacturers’ production.
It should be good news that scandal-ridden, environment-destroying Scott Pruitt is now out of office, but unfortunately it appears as if the EPA will continue along with Donald Trump’s agenda, where industry is favored over the environment, where science is not only ignored, but actively suppressed, and where the Trump administration continues to try to excise terms like “climate change”, “science-based”, and “evidence-based” from the government’s vocabulary.
Incoming Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler does say that he believes human activity has an impact on climate, saying, according to The Hill, “I do believe climate change is real. I do believe that people have an impact on the climate.” On the surface, that sounds promising, since that would make Wheeler one of the few upper level people in Trump’s administration to admit they believe human-influenced climate change is real. However, Wheeler was a former industry lobbyist before becoming deputy administrator at the EPA, and Wheeler has said that the EPA will not change much under his direction. According to The Hill:
Wheeler went on to say that the EPA will likely not change much under his leadership, and that he will continue to pursue alternatives to former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which Wheeler said he has criticized for going “outside the four corners of the Clean Air Act.”…But long before the (Pruitt) ethics scandals made national headlines, environmentalists had been critical of Pruitt and other administration officials for their views on climate change. President Trump, who has referred to global warming as a “Chinese hoax,” has faced critics who say he has filled his administration with climate change-deniers. Pruitt, a longtime skeptic of climate science, has questioned the role of carbon dioxide in rising global temperatures, and reportedly planned an agency exercise to formally challenge mainstream ideas of climate change.
Perhaps Wheeler will be an improvement in terms of ethical scandals, so that he will not find himself, like Pruitt, facing more than a dozen investigations for such misdeeds as using his aides, his office, and taxpayer money for personal benefit, keeping a secret calendar, and getting sweetheart rental deals from energy lobbyists. However, it does not sound as if Wheeler will go back to actually following the mission statement of the EPA, which involves protecting the environment and human health. Letting the “super polluting” trucks be manufactured without limit, for example, although started as Pruitt’s last act in office, appears to be something the EPA plans to continue, no matter the effects on the environment and the effects on human health.