As Budget Cuts Loom, Former EPA Officials Make Plea to Trump to Continue Agency’s Work

Published appeal for a continued reliance on science to protect the nation's air and water comes amid news of planned cuts and elimination of programs.

As Congress debated Scott Pruitt's nomination as EPA head, its programs were under fire
The Trump administration's plans to gut the Environmental Protection Agency have many supporters in Congress as well. Credit: Getty Images

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Three former high-ranking U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials urged the Trump administration not to sacrifice environmental quality and the health of the American people for special interest stakeholders.

The plea came in an opinion piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which was published on Wednesday just as reports surfaced that the administration plans deep cuts to the agency. Those surround an Office of Management and Budget proposal for reducing EPA staff by 20 percent and eliminating dozens of programs, including those involving environmental justice and climate change.

“Unfortunately, sowing doubt about scientific evidence has become a widely used strategy for delaying or blocking actions that are purported to potentially affect the bottom lines for particular industries,” the former officials wrote.  “We need to maintain the capacity to conduct cutting-edge research and to grapple with the application of the results in formulating evidence-based policies.”

The article was authored by Jonathan Samet, former chair of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Thomas Burke, until January the agency’s top science adviser, and Bernard Goldstein, who was assistant administrator for research and development during the Reagan administration.

The authors listed a prescription for the administration, seeking continued reliance on science for decision-making, increased funding for science, continued environmental surveillance and preparation for disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and continued efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

Before the article was published, the Trump administration had already signaled it was moving largely in the opposition direction.

Programs designated for elimination or major cuts under draft instructions leaked to the Washington Post include environmental justice programs, climate change initiatives including funds for implementing the Clean Power Plan, funding for Alaskan native villages, and the EPA’s Global Change Research Program, which develops scientific information that informs policymakers on climate change and its impacts on human health, ecosystems, and society. (The EPA’s Global Change Research Program is just one part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a program involving 13 federal agencies, including the EPA. The USGCRP produces a comprehensive National Climate Assessment every several years and would not necessarily be impacted by EPA budget cuts.)

Cuts to the EPA’s budget would have to be approved by Congress.