At the moment, 85 percent of the government’s science or science-related positions remain unfilled. The new administration isn’t exactly science friendly, so this isn’t surprising – and when they do fill these posts, they are often creationists, climate deniers, or anti-vaxxers. No wonder scientists are (finally) running for Congress en masse.
Unfortunately, as of this week, it looks like the administration will continue to double-down on its inability to choose people who are in any way appropriate for the job. The latest intellectual casualty arrived at the Department of Justice (DoJ) and goes by the name of Jeffrey Bossert Clark, of Virginia. He will now be an Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).
Mr Clark is a highly experienced lawyer, one who is currently a “partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.,” according to the White House press release on the appointment. He’s apparently also “won numerous cases in multiple Circuits,” and “from 2001 to 2005, Clark was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the ENRD of the Justice Department.”
So at a glance, he definitely sounds more than qualified to do this job – and he is. However, there is a little part of his backstory that completely sullies this.
As reported by Reuters, Clark was the lawyer for oil conglomerate BP Plc during the aftermath of the infamous Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010.
Not only that, but EcoWatch point out that he’s also signed off on plenty of climate change denial briefs, including one against the unbearably beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He has often recorded podcasts, written blogs, and composed papers that rally against the scientific consensus.
“When did America risk coming to be ruled by foreign scientists and apparatchiks at the United Nations?” Clark once opined. “Ever since Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the EPA under President Obama, chose to issue a rule determining that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare,” he angrily answered.
(Fact: climate change harms your health.)
The ENRD’s job is to bring cases against those – individuals or companies – that violate the nation’s various pollution laws, as well as anyone threatening the protection of the country’s public lands and natural resources. They are responsible for defending the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act, among many others.
Making Clark its top lawyer, then, is far from ideal. It’s not quite a conflict of interest if all former ties are severed before the post is taken, but it’s not far off. Surely, you would think, a pro-environmental lawyer would be best placed at the ENRD – but no. Screw the environment, it’s 2017!