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August 8 2017

What the Media Isn't Telling You about Those EPA Resignations

by Charlotte Hays

A spate of scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency recently has resigned, signaling that they must leave because they can't stomach the policies of the Trump administration.

Of course, the media hailed them as heroes.

But, as a Wall Street Journal editorial this morning explains, that's not the real story. This is really a story about an entrenched progressive bureaucracy wherein federal civil servants pursue their own agendas. Oh, yeah--and a number of the departing heroes were near retirement age anyway.

Among the departing scientists was Elizabeth Southerland, former director of science and technology in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, a thirty year veteran whose farewell memo cited “draconian” budget cuts. Ms. Southerland warned that because of the Trump administration “our children and grandchildren” will see “increased public health and safety risks and a degraded environment.”

Another worthy, twenty-five year veteran Michael Cox, denounced Administrator Scott Pruitt's “indefensible budget cuts” and efforts to “dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible” on the way out the door.

The Wall Street Journal looks behind the valedictory virtue signaling:

Both EPA employees are of retirement age, and they are right to bow out if they can’t in good faith work for Mr. Pruitt. Their letters nonetheless reveal an entrenched and liberal federal bureaucracy. Though career civil servants who are supposed to serve political appointees of any party, they have clearly become progressive ideological partisans.

Their exits also explain why so much of the EPA workforce is misrepresenting or missing the point of Mr. Pruitt’s policy changes. Ms. Southerland raps the Administrator’s call to rebalance power between the feds and states, as she claims the EPA “has always followed a cooperative federalism approach.”

Their exits also explain why so much of the EPA workforce is misrepresenting or missing the point of Mr. Pruitt’s policy changes. Ms. Southerland raps the Administrator’s call to rebalance power between the feds and states, as she claims the EPA “has always followed a cooperative federalism approach.”

Really? During the combined presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the EPA imposed five federal air-quality implementation plans on states. Barack Obama’s EPA imposed 56.

The Obama EPA also stripped states of their statutory development authority, whether with its pre-emptive veto of Alaska’s Pebble Mine, or its Waters of the United States rule that gave the feds de facto sway over tens of millions of acres of private land. EPA employees embraced these new powers, but they violate the Constitution and hurt the environment.

As for the EPA as protector of the environment against the evil Trump administration, the editorial recalls that one of the biggest environmental disasters of recent years was triggered by an EPA decision that polluted Colorado's Animas River. It was also the EPA that failed to warn the citizens of Flint, Michigan about lead in their water supply.

Pruitt, according to the editorial, is refocusing EPA jobs on core jobs and environmental cleanup and thus the much-publicized resignations will not hamper his mission.

In fact, the resignations free up some money. Just for the record, Southerland earned $249,000 last year (salary and bonus), which is, as the Journal notes,  a thousand dollars less than a Supreme Court Justice "and about $200,000 more than the average taxpayer." Her pension is about 75% of the average earnings of the last three years.

So the media may have missed the point: rather than being an environmental disaster, these resignations may well be a welcome turn of events.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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