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Senior EPA Official Resigns In Protest Against EPA Administrator’s ‘Industry Deregulation’

A senior Environmental Protection Agency official resigned from the agency in protest against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s plans for massive industry deregulation that will threaten human health.

The resignation comes as a federal appeals court in the D.C. Circuit upheld a ruling by the lower court that Pruitt’s decision to stay a methane emissions rule was “arbitrary and capricious,” as well as “unlawful.” The court ordered the EPA to reinstate the rule.

Pruitt is in the process of repealing 30 rules, including a rule that required the “highly toxic wastes of coal-fired electric plants be treated” rather than poured into “large holding ponds, where toxic chemicals seep into ground water and overflow into surface water, contaminating public water supplies and private wells.” The pollution also poisons fish and wildlife.

“The objective of the 2015 rule [was] to prevent repeats of the many environmental catastrophes caused by the failure of power company coal ash ponds, the most recent being the 70 mile-long Duke Energy spill into the Dan River of North Carolina,” Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland wrote [PDF] in an “exit memo” posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In his first address to EPA staff, the new Administrator admonished us for acting outside legal mandates and running roughshod over states’ rights,” Southerland shared.

She added, “The Administrator subsequently assured the states that he will initiate a cooperative federalism approach in which the power to govern is finally shared between EPA and the states. In fact, EPA has always followed a cooperative federalism approach, since most environmental programs are delegated to states and tribes who carry out the majority of monitoring, permitting, inspections, and enforcement actions.”

Southerland worked for the EPA for over thirty years. She was involved in the EPA’s work administering water regulations and regulations for the clean up of contaminated land.

According to Southerland, Pruitt is shifting the costly burden of environmental protection and regulation to states and tribal groups. They will need to increase taxes and establish new fees for monitoring, permits, inspections, and enforcement of rules.

Pruitt’s agenda means children and grandchildren will have to live with the greater threat of environmental disasters, such as “Hurricane Katrina, where small savings in flood protection levees resulted in one of the most catastrophic flooding and environmental disasters in U.S. history, and Flint, Michigan, where minimal costs for corrosion control or an alternative water supply were dwarfed by the subsequent lead contamination of children.”

As a merchant of doubt for the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt has called on scientists to go on television and debate the science around man-made climate change. This crass and deluded idea was called “bullshit” by Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, which is an environmental think tank.

Climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University said, “What Pruitt and his ilk really want is to stack the deck against mainstream science by giving cronies and industry lobbyists an undeserved place at the science table.”

A recent study “published by academics from the University of North Carolina,” according to EcoWatch, predicts “unabated climate change will cause some 60,000 deaths globally a year by 2030, rising to 230,000 a year by 2100. The study [concludes] that rising air temperatures will exacerbate air pollution, leading to further deaths.”

“The environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth,” Southerland concluded. “The truth is there is NO war on coal, there is NO economic crisis caused by environmental protection, and climate change IS caused by man’s activities.”

“It may take a few years and even an environmental disaster, but I am confident that Congress and the courts will eventually restore all the environmental protections repealed by this administration because the majority of the American people recognize that this protection of public health and safety is right and it is just.”

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."