EPA's Four-Year Mission Statement Omits One Absolutely Vital Phrase


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

You'll never guess what it is. Reddavebatcave/Shutterstock

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), isn’t exactly what you’d call subtle when it comes to his disdain for his own organization. In-between firing scientific advisors en masse and welcoming coal lobbyists in with open arms, he’s also spending $25,000 of taxpayer’s money on a personal soundproof booth.

As is also well known, he’s not a fan of using the words “climate change” – so much so, in fact, that hot off the heels of repealing the Clean Power Plan, he’s also refused to use the phrase at all in the EPA’s four-year strategic outlook.


This plan for the near-future is meant to outline how the EPA will protect human health, the environment, and the region from pollution and dangerously high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The last time this document was published back in 2014, under the Obama administration, climate change was the top priority, and the phrase appeared over 40 times.

As first seen by CNN, Pruitt’s inaugural attempt at hashing out the latest version is essentially the antithesis of this – less a small change across administration, and more of a cataclysmic shift.

Pruitt’s first priority is to “rebalance” the federal role in environmental regulation. Once again, the idea that the EPA has been overstepping its bounds has come up again, but what this really amounts to is this: states that rely more on fossil fuels than others don’t like it that the EPA says they need to transition to clean energy. That’s it.

Secondly, the EPA apparently needs to get back to doing what it originally did – make sure air, land, and water remain clean.


Sounds great on paper, but if this really was the mission of the agency, then why attack the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that helps to provide clean drinking water to millions of people? Why, as other agencies have done, nix key pollution studies?

A climate advocate at the last global climate summit in Marrakesh, Morocco. Ryan Rodrick Bailer/Shutterstock

This objective also implies that the focus on greenhouse gas emissions of late has been in error. Sadly, that’s not how science works – it isn’t a static monolith, but a constantly evolving thought process.

A lot more is known about the state of the environment and human health today than back in the 1970s when the EPA was founded, and it’s clear that climate change is the problem that makes everything worse, including pollution, human health, and ecological collapse. If the EPA wants to protect the environment, it cannot ignore greenhouse gases.

Again, at no point in the 38-page-long document, does the phrase “climate change” appear. Make no mistake about it, Pruitt wants to take the EPA back to the 1970s – and judging by these ghastly photographs of what America looked like back then, a grim future awaits.


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