Thursday, May 10, 2018

Report: industry insiders influence EPA more than ever

The Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of "regulatory capture," a form of government failure in which an agency advances the interests of the industries it's meant to regulate instead of public interest and impartial research, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, Neela Banerjee reports for Inside Climate News.

The study, based on interviews with current and former EPA staff and reviews of White House and EPA initiatives, found that the agency is closer to regulatory capture than it has ever been in its 47-year history. "New EPA leadership has thus far aimed at deconstructing, rather than reconstructing, the agency by comprehensively undermining many of the agency's rules, programs, and policies while also severely undercutting its budget, work capacity, internal operations and morale," said the study.

The report suggests that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has enabled this shift toward industry interests by making policy decisions with little input from scientists or longtime staff, and also notes "the extraordinary lengths that Pruitt has [gone to] to preserve secrecy and autonomy from the EPA career staff, such as cordoning his office wing off from career employees, reportedly forbidding note taking at some meetings and employing 24-hour armed guards," Banerjee reports.

The report also chronicled Pruitt's efforts to trash longstanding scientific practices in the agency by dismissing scientific advisory boards and hiring industry insiders. It also noted that the EPA issued 60 percent fewer civil penalties in the first six months of Pruitt's term and an overall decline in enforcement.

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