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Fear and Loathing Within America’s ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

INSIDE THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: PARANOIA AND STIFLED WORKBased on interviews with 47 current and former EPA employees, a new report paints a picture of a deeply divided and stymied agency. Pacific Standard, FRANCIE DIEP, JUN 20, 2017 A new report paints the Environmental Protection Agency under Scott Pruitt’s leadership in a particularly bad light.

Among the allegations from the report, which relies on anonymous sources: that Pruitt, despite his role as EPA head, has almost never met with environmental groups, and is, in fact, hamstringing his own agency’s law enforcement and regional offices; that Pruitt has banned employees from taking pen and paper into meetings out of fear of information being leaked; and that Pruitt’s office suppressed plans for an agency Earth Daypicnic because it seemed too combative.

“Beneath the veneer of Pruitt’s public statements and appearances, I think there’s a lot of dysfunction,” says Christopher Sellers, a history professor at Stony Brook University who interviewed 32 current and former EPA employees for the report, which was released publicly today by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, an activist group of university professors. EDGI organized shortly after President Donald Trump’s election in a response to what founders saw as anti-science sentiment in the administration.

The new EDGI report indicates there’s widespread demoralization and dissent within the EPA. That’s not surprising. Trump has long called for policies that are sure to be unpopular at the agency. While running for office, he vowed to shutter the agency. Since then, he has blamed environmental regulation for killing jobs; worked to repeal EPA rules; and, in his proposed budget, called for a 31 percent cut to the agency’s funding, which would likely eliminate thousands of jobs. Pruitt, meanwhile, has denied the reality of climate change, then later said he thought the Earth is warming, but wasn’t sure how much human activity had to do with it. What the new report offers are fresh details about Pruitt’s internal decisions and how they may already be affecting the agency’s work.

For the report, Sellers worked with seven other academics to interview 10 current and 37 former employees of the EPA between December of 2016 and May of this year. They recruited their sources through EPA alumni groups and by asking people they were already in contact with to refer them to others. They did not reveal their sources’ identities to Pacific Standard. Requests for comment from the EPA were not returned.

EDGI’s work paints a picture of an imbalanced agency that favors certain industries and constituents over others and is stymied by distrust between its head and his staff. Indeed, some doubt whether Pruitt wants the EPA to work at all. “I think the plan is to get rid of EPA,” one employee told the EDGI interviewers. “I think this is just phase one.”

ONLY SOME STAKEHOLDERS

Pruitt hasn’t been around for his staff, interviewees told EDGI. Few of the interviewees had seen him in the Washington, D.C., office. Instead, the sources said Pruitt seems to travel frequently and to pay attention to a select group of stakeholders: He’s gone to meet the governors of Western states, farmers, and coal miners, for example. He decorated headquarters with posters showing him shaking hands with miners. In late March, Trump visited the EPA headquarters to sign an executive order rewriting the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and starting the process of lifting a moratorium on coal leasing on federal land. He did so with Pruitt at his side and several coal miners surrounding him. “You know what it says, right?” Trump told the miners. “You’re going back to work.”…..https://psmag.com/environment/paranoia-and-stifled-work-at-epa

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June 26, 2017 - Posted by | psychology - mental health, USA

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