EPA may be forced to adapt to an environment that is friendlier to sound science.
The political sailing has not been smooth for many of President Trump’s nominees, and the process of approving Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency is no exception.
After being a target of one of the many Democratic Senate committee boycotts, Pruit cleared the log-jam:
Senate Republicans pressed forward on Thursday with the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, suspending the Environment and Public Works Committee’s rules to approve the cabinet pick despite a Democratic boycott.
The 11-0 vote sends the nomination to the full Senate, where Mr. Pruitt will most likely be approved next week.
…Senators on Thursday teed up what could be a week of rapid-fire confirmations, taking procedural votes to move forward with the nominations of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be attorney general, Representative Tom Price of Georgia to be secretary of health and human services, and Steven T. Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary.
Meahwhile, Myron Ebell (the head of Trump’s EPA transition team) has already set quite a lofty goal for Pruitt: reducing the agency staff by 50 percent.
Myron Ebell said in an interview with The Associated Press that Trump is likely to seek significant reductions to the agency’s workforce — currently about 15,000 employees nationwide. Ebell, who left the transition team last week, declined to discuss specific numbers of EPA staff that could be targeted for pink slips.
…“Let’s aim for half and see how it works out, and then maybe we’ll want to go further,” said Ebell, who has returned to his position as director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Additionally, there are indications internal changes to the agency are occurring. A group of eco-activists are monitoring the agency website for “climate change” policy, and have already noted some significant changes.
A group of researchers have found what are likely the first steps in a major overhaul of a site that’s been closely watched since President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Federal climate plans created under former President Obama, tribal assistance programs, and references to international cooperation have been stricken from the site.
A mention of carbon pollution as a cause of climate change has also been removed and adaptation has been emphasized, indicating an attempt to separate the cause of climate change from the response. Some of the changes — like removing mentions to programs and task forces that have run their course as well as broken links — are housekeeping, according to an agency statement.
…Climate change is being disassociated from carbon pollution. In the process of removing a mention of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the partnerships page also no longer mentions carbon pollution as a cause of climate change. Removing the commitment to the United Nations process also came with removing a statement linking greenhouse gas emissions to climate change.
Coupled with new language framing climate change as an adaptation issue, the early changes show that the EPA could continue its climate work but with less of a focus on reining in the underlying cause of climate change.
Curious, I checked the “adaptation” menu. A snippet is below, with some of the more intriguing phrases highlighted.
“Adaptation” refers to the adjustments that societies or ecosystems make to limit the negative effects of climate change or to take advantage of opportunities provided by a changing climate. Adaptation can range from a farmer planting more drought-resistant crops to a coastal community evaluating how best to protect its infrastructure from rising sea level.
Climate change is already impacting societies and ecosystems around the world, and many impacts are expected to increase as global temperatures continue to rise. While reducing greenhouse gas emissions is required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, a certain amount of global warming is inevitable, due to the long-lasting nature of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, and to heat already stored in the oceans. Adapting to the changes that are already underway, and preparing for future climate change, can help reduce the risks societies will face from climate change.
It appears that EPA is trying to adapt to an environment that is friendlier to good business and sound science.