Several former Environmental Protection Agency administrators on Tuesday offered strong rebukes of the Trump administration’s approach to environmental policy and commitment to science, saying its handling of the EPA will have negative consequences for Americans.
During her testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Christine Todd Whitman, who served under President George W. Bush, cited a 2018 American Journal of Public Health study that concluded the Trump administration “has explicitly sought to reorient the EPA toward industrial and industry-friendly interest, often with little or no acknowledgment of the agency’s health and environmental missions.”
“This unprecedented attack on science-based regulations designed to protect the environment and public health represents the gravest threat to the effectiveness of the EPA — and to the federal government’s overall ability to do the same — in the nation’s history,” Whitman said.
The hearing comes as the Trump administration faces scrutiny from environmental and regulatory groups for its approach to environmental policy, specifically climate change. Earlier this year, the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, to be the new head of the EPA.
“I find it disconcerting because this collection of past EPA administrators feel obligated to testify together and individually to make the case that what is happening at EPA today is simply put, not normal and to solicit your help to get it on a more productive path,” said Gina McCarthy, who served in the Obama administration.
McCarthy added that she believes the EPA “is in serious trouble,” and that as a result, “American families are facing increasing risks to their health and wellbeing, especially the very young, the elderly and those living in poverty that are most vulnerable to the impacts of pollution.”
Lee Thomas, who served as EPA administrator under President Ronald Reagan, questioned during his testimony the EPA’s commitment to science when making policy decisions.
“Does the agency have adequate resources with the strong scientific capability it needs? Is it seeking input from key scientific advisory committees?” Thomas said. “Is it coordinating actively with the broad scientific community on research surrounding environmental issues? I don’t think they do.”
Another former EPA administrator, William Reilly, who served under President George H.W. Bush, similarly said that under President Donald Trump, the agency has relied less on science.
“EPA needs to re-establish the agency’s scientific credibility by appointing well qualified scientists from key disciplines to advisory committees and to consider the full range of peer reviewed research and data bases that are relevant to questions at hand,” Reilly said.
The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.