by Isa Molewijk
There has been a lot of controversy around the appointment of Scott Pruitt as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. The walking contradiction of an anti-environmentalist in charge of the EPA has been subject to both outrage and applause all over the world. Now Pruitt is under fire for several scandals about his spending habits, like the deal to rent a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a gas industry lobbyist. Headlines like ‘White house considered firing Scott Pruitt’ and ‘Scott Pruitt’s bizarre condo scandal and mounting ethics questions’ scatter the news. Even republicans openly question Pruitt’s legitimacy. Furthermore, it strikes a more fundamental question about the existence of the EPA and the overall United States political system. How could an anti-environmentalist become chief of the EPA in the first place? And who will stand for the environment in times of Global Warming?
In the Netherlands there was a similar case of a ‘walking contradiction’ when anti-immigration-politician Rita Verdonk was appointed minister of Integration and Immigration. With an increasing amount of refugees in Europe from war-torn countries, Verdonk sought to sharpen immigration laws and regulations. During her term (2003-2007) her directness and dehumanizing policies earned her the nickname ‘Iron Rita’. Fortunately, she did not get all policies through. Mainly because of the existence of the Dutch Council for Refugees, a Non-Governmental Organization (although partially government funded) which is leading in expertise and lobbies immigration policies to the House of Representatives. They work close together with the government and when the government does not take their advice they use the media to demand consideration. In every branch of government there is a non-governmental agency that needs to be reckoned with. Their non-governmental nature causes them to solely have their purpose at mind, not worrying about re-election or presidential appointments. In the case of environmental policy, the Dutch government sets the frameworks, but the law is mostly shaped by non-governmental agency Stichting Natuur & Milieu (Nature and Environment).
The Trump Administration and appointment of Scott Pruitt seemed to perish all hope for environmental protection in the U.S. However, it was an executive order from president Nixon that created the EPA in the first place. Maybe Scott Pruitt should not be on fire for non-surprising unethical behavior, but the entire political system that got him to be chief in the first place. Maybe the EPA should have a less governmental nature and there should be more non-governmental third party organizations to be reckoned with. It is time to be creative and demand change in a fundamental anti-environmental system. After all, environmental protection should not be linked to being a republican or democrat: we all breath the same air and we will all suffer the consequences of human-fueled global warming.
I think your comment gets to the truly partisan heart of the American political system. It’s difficult as it is to separate ideology from politics, but it’s even more difficult when thinking in terms of a position that is appointed by the President. There really is not a way for the head of the EPA to not be influenced by ideology when their ideology is primarily what got them to that position to begin with. I do agree that the EPA should not be so politicized, but I’m not sure that more involvement from non-governmental groups is the solution. I think especially in America these groups are just as beholden to ideology and money as the politicians and governmental organizations already are. I think the real solution is getting more common-sense legislation pushed through Congress that the EPA would be required to follow instead of executive orders and regulations. Legislation passed by Congress would not be as subjected to political turnovers like executive orders are. In order for this to happen though, there needs to be real change in Congress and the lobbying system, which of course as we already know is not as easy as it sounds.
I completely agree with the statement that environmental protection should not be linked to being a republican or democrat—this outlines the current issue the US is facing right now with Scott Pruitt but as Catherine stated that is just unfortunately how the American political system works. Each President brings in people only who share their same ideologies because they want specific changes to be made and the President is in charge of appointing the position for the head of the EPA. I think that the EPA should still be governmentally ran but I do think that the only way to have them actually address the issues that society is worrying about is to have non-governmental influence that give weight to the problems they are dealing with. With the Trump administration, the trend seems as if it will continue for more people coming into office each day with the same ideologies as him.
I personally believe that it is a matter of time before EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is fired. As much as this Administration thrives on the organized chaos that occurs every time they abruptly switch someone from an Administration job, Donald Trump still gets irritated with his most loyal henchmen and has a tendency to turn on them. That list of people seems to be expanding, including people such as former Department of Health and Human Services director Tom Price, National Security Advisers Lieutenant General (retired) Michael Flynn & Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, campaign adviser Paul Manafort, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. With all the ethics scandals plaguing Administrator Pruitt, it is only a matter of time before he gets the boot.
The point you made which proposed the EPA be privatized to a non-governmental organization was interesting to me, as the american public does seem to value privatization but would not respond to it well. If the EPA were converted into an NGO, the implementation of policies would simply not happen. The only power the NGO would have would be influence, which just isn’t enough to get people to actually change. This would be especially true regarding the implementation of regulatory policies that would not serve to benefit those being regulated. There is already resistance to such policies even with the EPA’s existing powers, as is perfectly exemplified by Scott Pruitt’s EPA lawsuits.
As for Pruitt himself, I believe that he will not be fired without extreme pressure from other White House staff, as he is perfectly executing the anti-environmentalist agenda laid out by President Trump and Pruitt’s industry pals. As was discussed by Robert Murray in Frontline’s “War on the EPA,” Pruitt and Trump have continued to please industry heads with their anti-regulatory actions. Trump and Pruitt’s anti-environmentalist ideals and agendas have perpetuated one another and will continue to do so until Trump himself feels pressured by speculation of corruption and experiences fear of supporter distaste.
“After all, environmental protection should not be linked to being a republican or democrat: we all breath the same air and we will all suffer the consequences of human-fueled global warming.”
This quote completely embodies the reason why environmental politics need to be paid attention to and addressed with a level of urgency. I once heard a man say the biggest con humans ever pulled off was putting water in a bottle and selling it”. reading this reminded me of that because it is ridiculous that something as natural as the environment is being dealt with such scandal, and a quest for money and power. We all agree that is is ridiculous that people fill roles that they shouldn’t. It is like like appointing a member of the KKK the head of a diversity and inclusion department; it just does not work.
My question is, should there be something that hinders appointing people to positions they are clearly against? How do we get the right people in these potions that are not technically fighting for one side (democratic or republican) but instead fighting for the group we ALL fit under; the human race?
I don’t think the EPA should be privatized, that would just give them less authority, and less oversight. If it was a private institution than there would be little we could do to change the wrongs they could do, unlike now where if we don’t like someone, we can just vote them out. I do think that we are missing one crucial detail and that is if you don’t like the practices that the EPA and Pruitt are allowing, then you don’t have to do it. We can take a conscious effort to buy from companies that do have environmentally minded practices or protest when we think something isn’t right. Pruitt was put in his position because the president agreed with him, so we should work more to getting Congress to pass more environmentally friendly laws to try up his hands. I understand that it is much easier said than done, but I am truly tired of listening to people complain about issues without offering viable solutions.