While EPA head Scott Pruitt “reorganizes” the Environmental Protection Agency by moving funds away from actual science programs to fund his own personal security force and figuring out ways to turn the agency into a climate denial propaganda machine, serious people are finding themselves with no other option but to leave. Meet Elizabeth “Betsy” Southland worked at the EPA for the last 30 years. Ms. Southland has decided to leave and she wrote a scathing exit letter that has surfaced and is reported on by The Hill. In the letter, Southland talks about the good things the EPA has done during her career in the hopes of protecting our air and water from pollution.—not perfectly or quickly, obviously, but always moving in the right direction. 

In his first address to EPA staff, the new Administrator admonished us for acting outside legal mandates and running roughshod over states’ rights. 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. All the federal environmental statutes set national standards for protection of public health and the environment because Congress recognized that some states might be willing, for economic or other reasons, to tolerate much less protection than their neighboring states. To ensure that all states can provide clean air and water not only to their own residents but to the residents of downwind/downstream states, EPA provides funding to states and tribes to support their implementation of the federal statutes. Under the new federalism, however, the President’s FY18 budget proposes cuts to state and tribal funding as draconian as the cuts to EPA, while at the same time reassigning a number of EPA responsibilities to the states and tribes. If they want to maintain their current level of monitoring, permitting, inspections, and enforcement, states will have to increase taxes and establish new user fees. Even if they are able to do this over time, the proposed FY18 budget cuts to state, tribal and federal environmental programs would result in thousands of jobs lost in the short term, in EPA, state and tribal governments, and the private environmental consulting firms which support those governmental agencies.

Refusing to use Pruitt’s name is important here because when the histories are written about this era, people like Pruitt will be seen as the puppets of fossil fuel industry that they are. Their names will be erased as time marches on.

Today the environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth. 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.

We need to get out the vote.