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The EPA faces new challenges in the Trump era

Team Trump's political interference with EPA information is headed in an unprecedented direction.
The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stands in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stands in Washington, D.C.
When Donald Trump last month chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, it was clear the near future for the agency was bleak. Pruitt, after all, has spent much of his career fighting against the EPA and combating its core missions. Now the far-right Republican will be in charge of the agency he opposes.But that was apparently just the tip of a quickly melting iceberg. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

The Trump administration is mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public.The communications director for President Donald Trump's transition team at EPA, Doug Ericksen, said Wednesday the review also extends to content on the federal agency's website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth's climate is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame.Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.

That last point is of particular interest. Political interference with the EPA's work was a serious problem in the Bush/Cheney era, but (a) Bush's first EPA director was Christie Todd Whitman, a moderate Republican who actually cared about the agency's work; and (b) Trump World is going even further to impose political limits on what the EPA tells Americans.When the AP asked specifically about scientific data collected by EPA scientists, such as routine monitoring of air and water pollution, the Trump administration official responded, "Everything is subject to review."This is no small development. EPA scientists may have important information to share with the public, but with Trump in the White House, all of that information will now have to go through political appointees -- who may or may not approve of the content.All of this comes against the backdrop of a purported gag order on EPA employees, which Rachel reported on a couple of days ago.
In November, Trump sat down for a lengthy interview with the New York Times, where he emphasized his commitment to the environment. “I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important,” the president-elect said. “Clean water – crystal clean water – is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.”There's a reason he was vague about how he intends to deliver on this commitment.