Scott Pruitt, Republican and current (14th) Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], recently announced changes to the EPA that could alter the U.S. environmental experience significantly. The most substantial impact could well end up tied directly to the removal of paid, yet supremely qualified, advisory board members.
The announcement comes after Pruitt’s recent administrative appointment, in a move that replaced outgoing administrator Gina McCarthy, a Democrat. Pruitt represents interests which oppose previously established positions regarding environmental safety, and has been working on reversals for years. Announced EPA changes were said to have been enacted to assure integrity of decision-making.
If Pruitt is serious about ensuring that the scientific process unfolds without “any type of conflict of interest“, then it might make sense to also bar individuals to the advisory board who have ties to traditionally anti-science religions and anti-regulation business interests. However, under such a condition, Pruitt himself would be a conflict of interest to the EPA (such evenhandedness couldn’t occur under his administration). As things stand, there could be wide discrepancy between purported concerns of internal, operational integrity at the EPA . . . and actual interests of the Trump-era Republican EPA.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST APPARENT IN RECENT EPA CHANGES OVERALL
In an apparent effort to alter the trajectory of the EPA, Pruitt made blatant reference to a story of the Bible as a way of explaining the change publicly. It was an unabashed yet illogical tie-in to supposed concerns of bias. Besides not being a good fit for the scenario, Pruitt’s chosen language, used in such an overt way as a public announcement regarding government business, should concern everyone. Pruitt indicates, through his choice of language, that he simply isn’t interested in speaking to the entire public or in the representation of their best interests, necessarily. His niche target language directly and publicly marginalizes the perspectives and interests of a sizable portion of the population.
After these changes that restrict financially-incentivized EPA scientists from the EPA advisory board, it’s feared that henceforth advisors may be approved who hail from companies regulated by the EPA. This would introduce another conflict of interest, on the parts of Pruitt and any would-be advisors.
It’s not all bad. Concern in general is legitimate. But neither by religious activism nor another personally-biased financial incentive should individuals be empowered to lead EPA actions from standpoints rooted in irrelevant predisposition. At the same time, such an organization built by the people to preserve our limited resources must be led by experts of scientific integrity. Are people to believe that this hasn’t been the case, simply because Lamar Smith, a Republican Texas Representative, [reportedly] stated that the EPA ‘now has an administrator with “common sense, commitment, and courage”’? In essence, a sly suggestion that previously the organization’s administration did not possess such qualities, but that the new administration does. We’ll figure that the theocratic schooling that came with the public announcement is designed to remove any question, bestowing people with an essentially unfounded belief that what the evangelical EPA administration does will be the “great thing” (which could mean anything, really).
Further, Smith indicated a personal awareness of the fact that Pruitt’s power to take these actions of change prior to legislative approvals was a major plus for the new administration. That this could happen seems to show that there is something gravely shortcoming in the way politics are played out today, to the point that the legislative branch seems practically meaningless, time and time again.
Still, it could be of utmost veracity to gain the representational participation of variously-inclined constituencies. We have a common interest in preventing unwarranted regulations and their subsequent bureaucracy, especially in an Internet Age when waves of social pressure can result in a quick momentum of false perception. We should shield ourselves from potentially costly actions that can be promoted by rapid, unreasoned social waves from any direction.