Saturday, February 18, 2017

Under the Heel of "45" and Pruitt - The EPA

Yesterday, by a four vote margin, Scott Pruitt was confirmed as the new administrator of the United States Protection Agency.  He was sworn in yesterday afternoon.  During his election campaign, the tiny-handed tangerine tyrant, aka 45, vowed "to gut the EPA."  Congress has just given that power to 45's hand-picked butcher. Scott Pruitt, has always been highly critical of the Environmental Protection Agency, and now wields the power to to totally reshape the 15,000 employees work place and work standards.
   As the Attorney General of the state of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA at least 14 times - often in lockstep with the fossil fuel industry - to try to overturn the agency's clean air and clean water regulations.  He has questioned the role humans play in climate change, and argues that much of the agency's authority should in the the states' hands.  Now, Pruitt's actions - and the new executive orders that 45 plans to sign regarding the EPA - could have repercussions for decades, if not centuries. "Most of the business community is looking to Pruitt to make changes that will be enduring - not do things that can easily be undone by the next administration, but really sensible things," said Jeffrey Holmstead, who was an EPA official during George W. Bush's administration, and who is now employed by Bracewell LLP.
    I have personally heard of an executive order in the works that will allow mines almost no restrictions on the waste (toxic and otherwise), sludge, and sediment run-offs that will flow into streams,creeks and rivers.  No more wading in the creeks, or fishing, or anything fun - just rescuing poisoned creatures in the poisoned waters and along stream, creek and river banks...
     I have drawn heavily upon as a resource for the following information.  The five items of vital interest to the American public regarding this administration and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are:
1.  Climate Change -   "45" and Pruitt have vowed to dramatically shift course on the Obama Administration's landmark climate change efforts.  The president has threatened to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate deal, in which the US and nearly 200 other nations agreed to make sharp cuts in their greenhouse gas output. The EPA's Clean Power Plan, which requires cuts in the power industry's carbon dioxide emissions,has a target on its back.
2.  Water Protections -  After years of legal confusion about which streams and wetlands deserve protection under the Clean Water Act, the Obama administration issued a landmark regulation in 2015 to cover head-water streams and some wetlands and ponds. Called the Waters of the US rule, or WOTUS, the regulation sparked a fierce backlash from home builders, farmers, and the oil and gas industries, which say it gives the federal government vast power over everything from stock ponds to puddles.  This President has vowed to kill WOTUS as soon as possible.
3.  Executive Orders - Cheeto-cheeks is widely expected to sign one or more executive orders shortly after Pruitt takes the helm at the agency, setting the priorities and tone for his EPA.  Top targets for the orders could include the agency's climate change work, its broad enforcement powers, or its overall approach to regulation.  Of course, executive orders are tied to the president who signs them, and the next administration can quickly undo them.  But EOs can also be used to set in motion a broader set of changes that aren't as easily erased. For instance, industry groups have long urged the EPA to change the way it measures the costs of new regulations, something that could significantly alter the regulatory review process for years.
4.  Personnel - One early "45" adviser, EPA critic Myron Ebell, had a clear recommendation for reining in the EPA: "Slash the workforce."  His call to cut the EPA's staff by two-thirds got a lot of media attention, but would be virtually impossible to accomplish.  Still, attrition can pack a punch, especially when the number of employees nearing retirement age and the promise of an unfriendly leader has sent morale plunging.
5.  Legislation - Truly lasting changes in the country's approach to environmental regulation will require action by Congress.  And after eight years of having their efforts met with veto threats from the White House, Republicans on Capitol Hill now see an opening.  But any such legislation will face a 60 vote threshold in the Senate, so a wholesale revamp that many in the GOP want to see is likely to remain out of reach.  Key Republican leaders have said that they plan to take a rifle-shot approach to the Clean Air Act, and they may try again to influence the reach of the Clean Water Act. However, it's not clear whether they will be able to raise the 60 votes needed...

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