The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 16

Pruitt and Zinke are all for cutting their agency’s staff, and Zinke wants to put more money in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.
Credit: Gage Skidmore

Pruitt and Zinke are all for cutting their agency’s staff, and Zinke wants to put more money in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.

With what President Trump and his team have uttered on the budget, energy, wind power, and climate, some couldn’t be faulted for thinking of the 1960s-era show Kids Say the Darndest Things.

In Iowa on June 21, Trump promoted coal and blasted wind energy, saying it kills a lot of birds. But glass buildings and cats kill far more, half a billion to three billion more. And Iowa gets 36 percent of its electricity from wind power—more than any other state.

Team Trump made other confounding comments as they continued their assault on public health and the environment. And NRDC filed legal action to block an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency move to allow more harmful landfill gas emissions.

Pruitt Cans Scientists—Public Health Next?

The EPA is also purging scientific advisors. On June 20, news broke that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is getting rid of dozens of scientists advising the agency under its Board of Scientific Counselors.

What this means: Your government is canning objective researchers, apparently to make room for for-profit chemical manufacturers and ideologically driven non-scientists to advise the United States on whether toxic chemicals in our air, land, water, and environment pose harm to all of us.

Pruitt Shedding 8 percent of EPA Workforce with Buyouts

Furthermore, Pruitt’s starting to downsize the EPA staff even though Congress essentially level-funded the agency in the current fiscal year, and even though Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget for the EPA—a 31 percent cut that would eliminate 3,700 staffers—has met a chilly reception from bipartisan members of Congress.

EPA union leaders were informed via e-mail from an EPA lawyer that the agency will offer buyouts to up to 1,228 employees—8 percent of its current 15,000-person workforce­―with a goal of completing the separations by September.

And Pruitt Picks Polluter Lobbyist for No. 2 Post

On June 19, news outlets reported that Pruitt had picked his deputy: Jeff Holmstead, a current lobbyist for the oil industry. NRDC’s Clean Air program director, John Walke, said there's “no reason” to think Holmstead will be a moderating force of any kind. “In the Bush EPA, Mr. Holmstead loyally executed that administration’s anti-environmental agenda—and was overturned in court more than any prior or subsequent head of EPA’s air program," Walke said.

CO2 Increasing Temperatures? It’s the Oceans, Stupid

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists say that manmade carbon dioxide emissions are the leading driver of climate change. Asked on June 19 on CNBC’s Squawk Box program if CO2 emissions are the “primary control knob” for rising temperatures on earth, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry demurred.

“No,” he said, “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

What’s warming them, then, Mr. Secretary?

Zinke’s Downsizing Gets Cold Shoulder

In several appearances on Capitol Hill, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told lawmakers he plans to cut his agency’s workforce by 4,000 employees and repeated a mantra: “This is what a balanced budget looks like.”

Representative Jared Huffman, of California, was among several who didn’t buy it. “But this is not what a balanced budget has to look like,” he told Zinke at a Natural Resources Committee hearing on June 21. Huffman noted the Trump budget cuts funding for renewable energy, climate science, environmental health, wildlife refuges, endangered species, conservation, and more.

Public Lands Are for Polluter Profits

On the Hill, Zinke also made it clear that when he looks at the millions of acres of public lands under his control, he sees dollar signs—for polluters. He complained that in 2008 the government earned $18 billion in revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling but only $2.6 billion last year—failing to mention that oil prices have sharply dropped during that time.

Old Energy Week and Pruitt on the Hill Ahead

The White House has designated next week as Energy Week. Listen for mentions of clean energy―particularly since the president’s budget seeks a 70 percent cut in solar and wind energy research and dozens of cuts to advanced energy, state energy aid, and programs like Energy Star.

And Pruitt, who defended the EPA budget cuts before House appropriators on June 15, will reprise that role before a Senate spending panel on June 27.

That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch.