Week 12: The EPA Turns into the PPA—the Pruitt Protection Agency

Now hiring: 24-hour bodyguards for the EPA administrator, as he seeks to fire thousands and risk the bodies of all Americans.

April 14, 2017

Welcome to our weekly Trump v. Earth column, in which onEarth reviews the environment-related shenanigans of President Trump and his allies.

Rick Perry at the G7 Energy conference in Rome, April 10, 2017

ANSA/Massimo Percossi

Hey Italy, Rick Perry Wants to Sell You Some Coal

The G7—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—was supposed to lead the world in the fight against climate change. And they were starting to make progress. In 2015, the assembled leaders agreed to limit the global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius and announced an ambitious goal to quit fossil fuels by the end of the century.

On Monday, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry tried his best to undo all of that. Perry sauntered into the G7 meeting in Rome and started pontificating like a guy who arrived late to a party and never bothered to ask what everyone else was talking about. He urged the leaders to keep using coal and natural gas without even mentioning the adverse impacts they have on global temperatures. (In fact, Perry didn’t even use the word “climate.”)

Perry also announced his support for investments that will “help renewables become competitive with traditional sources of energy,” apparently unaware that solar energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in large swaths of the world.

Renewables are beating fossil fuels 2 to 1

Bloomberg New Energy Finance and UNEP

The G7 meeting was supposed to end with an agreement on energy policy, but Perry’s backwardness scuppered the deal. When it comes to leadership on this crucial global issue, America is apparently not going to be first. Arrivederci, progresso.

Bureau of Loneliness Management

A leaked memo suggests that the Trump administration plans to make the Bureau of Land Management the center of the president’s effort to withdraw the United States from the rest of the world. According to the memo, described as a “priority work” list, the BLM will focus on accelerating the exploitation of public lands for coal, oil, gas, and hard rock mining, in part by easing environmental review processes required under the National Environmental Policy Act. As the recent G7 summit showed, Trump’s dogged fascination with fossil fuels will only push us farther from our allies.

Iron mining pit


The BLM’s other focus under Trump will be assisting in the approval process for security projects along the U.S.–Mexico border. It doesn’t take an eagle eye to read between those lines—the BLM will be helping to build that wall.

The delicious irony of this memo, which was leaked to E&E News, is the fact that we’ve seen it at all. The memo hadn’t yet been circulated to BLM staff, which means the leaker may have been a fairly high-ranking official. President Trump wants to make our border leakproof, but he can’t even do that with his hand-picked administrators.

Trump Is Eliminating Thousands of Jobs . . .

The White House directed agencies to prepare for deep personnel cuts over the next year, according to documents first obtained by Politico. The agencies will be required to have a plan by September to shrink their employment rolls. Although Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney adamantly, adamantly refused to single out any individual agency, he did let slip (oops!) that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency faces the biggest challenge.

Here’s a fact Mulvaney conveniently failed to mention: President Obama substantially slowed the growth of the federal workforce and curbed salary growth as well. The federal government currently employs an historically low proportion of the U.S. labor force. In 1966, the federal government employed 4.3 percent of American workers. Today, it’s around 2 percent. There’s simply no urgent need to fire thousands of people—especially ones who implement our environmental safeguards, many of which pay for themselves.

. . . But Creating a Few New Positions

In news that is absolutely, completely unrelated to firing thousands of his employees, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt apparently fears for his safety. Several news outlets are reporting that Pruitt is expected to request around-the-clock security, to be paid for out of the agency’s budget.

No past administrator has made such a request, and the agency doesn’t have enough security staff to guard Pruitt all day, every day. According to former EPA officials, fulfilling Pruitt’s security request will require cuts in other parts of the agency—the parts that protect our environment. Welcome to the new PPA: Pruitt Protection Agency.

If Scott Pruitt thinks he needs 24-hour protection, maybe he can call his buddies in the energy industry. They know people in security, and I hear they owe Pruitt a few favors.

Don’t Believe in Climate Change? You’re Hired!

Kathleen White in Trump Tower in November

Anthony Behar/Pool/Sipa USA

Politico is reporting that President Trump is considering appointing Kathleen Hartnett White to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality. White is a rare breed of climate change denier. She doesn’t simply deny that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is a threat to our way of life, nor does she make the argument du jour that we simply can’t tell how carbon emissions are affecting the planet. White takes it several steps further, advising a group called the CO2 Coalition, which insists that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide will provide a net benefit to humans and other life on earth. (For a laugh, I strongly recommend visiting the coalition’s website, which I promise is not a spoof.)

White’s other argument—in addition to denying the overwhelming evidence of climate change—is a kind of misty-eyed nostalgia for fossil fuels. She talks about fossil fuels as “a necessary condition of monumental improvements in human welfare and economic growth that emerged around 1800.” But admitting we owe a degree of historical economic progress to oil, coal, and gas is irrelevant to whether we still need them. Draft animals improved the human living standard immeasurably, but that doesn’t mean White should have to drive a bullock cart to work. Although that would be funny.

Stay up-to-date on Trump’s environmental antics by visiting NRDC’s Trump Watch or following it on Facebook or Twitter.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

onEarth Story

The Trump administration has the money to fly Scott Pruitt first class, but not enough for renewable energy or climate change research?

onEarth Story

Muzzling scientists, scrubbing websites, attacking journalists: all in a shameful day’s work for our bought-and-paid-for EPA administrator. It’s time to stop him.

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The White House is doing all it can to scrub any mention of global warming from government documents. But the Pentagon may end up pushing back.

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While Pruitt’s ethical lapses threaten to destroy the EPA, he rolls back clean car standards and panders to oil refiners.

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