At the time of writing, it’s difficult to reason that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a valuable purpose. It’s supposed to do exactly what its name suggests, but it has been rapidly poisoned and corrupted from within by the Trump administration and its climate denying, science bashing chief, Scott Pruitt.
Not only has its science been removed from its mission statement, but most of its scientific advisory council is about to be purged. Now it’s emerged that the scientists speaking out against this catastrophe were “bullied” by a senior EPA official into keeping quiet about it.
Environmental chemist Deborah Swackhamer – the advisory board’s ranking scientist – was due to testify before the House Science Committee about the scale and reasoning behind the mass dismissal of scientists taking place at the EPA on May 23.
According to emails obtained by The New York Times, however, the EPA’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, demanded that she roll back her testimony and stick to the agency’s talking points. She was told to tell the committee that any such purge had not happened yet, despite the fact that scientists were being handed their notices both before and after the testimony was due to happen.
It’s not clear what censoring Swackhamer would have achieved anyway; the House Science Committee is a Republican-controlled body that is notoriously anti-scientific, and the dismissals at the EPA would have inevitably become public knowledge anyway.
Earlier in May, Pruitt caused an uproar when he told 18 members of the EPA’s Board of Science Counselors (BOSC) that they wouldn’t need to return to work later that year. Just a few days ago, it became clear that this number would rise to 38, which would leave just 11 people left standing.
Pruitt now has the ability to handpick the replacements for those vacant seats – if he so chooses – and it’s thought that pro-fossil fuel industry representatives and climate skeptics will be invited into the agency. In fact, Pruitt has recently requested that a “red team, blue team” committee gets set up to "debate" the science behind climate change – one which will be comprised half of actual climatologists and half of climate deniers.
In short, the EPA is continually being stripped of its ability to conduct scientific investigations and protect the environment. As is now being made clear, any protestations about the progression of this agency towards self-destruction are also being censored, albeit ineffectively.
So what is the point of the EPA anymore? The Trump administration has been keen to demolish the EPA, and there are Republicans in the House that are keen to see it abolished. At this stage, maybe it should be, because right now it’s nothing more than an embarrassing monument to irony.