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The EPA’s Ridding of Common Sense

Every day, the EPA seems to be chipping away at the “protection” in “Environmental Protection Agency”

Emily Zhao
Oct 22, 2018 · 4 min read

As Andrew Wheeler replaces the Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, it seems like the measures to dismantle environmental acts still continue. What seems even more horrifying than the replacement of one non-believer with another is the possibility of more costly repeals, including the replacement of the Clean Power Plan and other various environmental regulations.

Yet, one recent negative change involves the restructuring of the EPA, namely the merging of the “Office of Science Advisor” with the Office of Science Policy. Almost directly connected with the EPA executives, the Office of Science Advisor was typically responsible for providing scientific research to back up reports on public and environmental health. According to Jennifer Orne-Zavaleta, the deputy administrator for science at the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, this step is part of a reorganization process to streamline the EPA, however the main impact seems that this change will shift the importance of science down in the chain of commands. Others are worried that the merger will allow for more political interference in decisions which should be strictly unbiased and give Wheeler more free rein to ignore scientific advice.

Without scientists as immediate advisors, how is the EPA supposed to justify its long-term policy or act logically during times of crisis? The foundation of the EPA is built on science and the ability to reason out the importance of environmental protection. Not only are the new executives wreaking havoc on the structure of the EPA, but they are also slowly dismantling policy for pressing issues relevant to the health of our nation.

On October 16, Ruth Etzel, a senior scientist at the EPA, reported that action to correct lead levels in drinking waters across this nation’s cities has stalled. After dangerous lead levels were discovered in the water pipes in Flint, Michigan, there was a widespread push for more federal regulation of drinking water quality. Prior to Pruitt’s appointment, the EPA had made significant progress to investigate how Flint’s water crisis had gotten so bad without notice and to provide further relief to the residents.

Cartoon by: Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

Unfortunately, according to Etzel, such measures have slowed, and even though the Flint water crisis began four years ago, the issues have yet to be completely solved. Some residents still avoid drinking tap water and research is still being conducted to see how exactly did the conditions deteriorate without proper recognition. Without more funding and organization from the EPA, it is unlikely that more federal regulations on water quality will be put into effect.

On October 17, the EPA take further steps to disregard the relevant environmental health issues. On April 24, Pruitt had proposed a dangerously ignorant rule which would limit the “the number of health-related studies the agency can consider when drafting regulations,” according to CNN. This rule which has been called the “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule would restrict the number of health experiments and studies that could be considered during policy making. According to this proposed rule, the date used within a study must be publicly disclosed as a way of promoting “transparency” towards the public. The EPA announced on October 17 that they would move forward with the proposal; although after receiving more than 597,000 comments on the initial proposal, the EPA spokesman Michael Abboud believed that the finalizing process would be drawn out.

Organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists believe that this rule is yet another step back from science. Executives can now ignore certain health studies, which, in many cases, cannot reveal all their data information due to patient privacy laws. As for the 12-year UN climate ultimatum released on October 8, the EPA has barely acknowledged its existence. A spokesperson from the EPA replied in an interview with Daily Beast when asked about the report, “What report? I haven’t heard of it.” The EPA later released a statement revealing that they will not endorse any of the findings in the report.

With a President who doubts climate change and an environmental agency that is severely dragging its feet, climate scientists and environmentally conscious citizens can only worry about the future. The “acting administrator” will not be replaced with anyone better or confirmed anytime soon, so the EPA is stuck in this regressive period of deregulation and blind policymaking.

Photo by Association for Psychological Science

Without innovative and unprecedented action, the world is propelling itself off a cliff, heading towards catastrophic extreme weather events and drastic temperatures. The call for action is dire, and our country’s leader along with the rest of the world needs to step up in order for us to even possibly contain the increase of global temperature within 1.5 degrees.

The Climate Reporter

At the Center of the Youth Climate Movement

The Climate Reporter

An international youth-led environmental news organization covering the work of the growing youth climate movement and more widely known environmental movement.

Emily Zhao

Written by

The Climate Reporter Editor-in-Chief | Earth Optimist | Filmmaker | Based in Maryland

The Climate Reporter

An international youth-led environmental news organization covering the work of the growing youth climate movement and more widely known environmental movement.