Not telling the people you work for what you do at work isn’t an option available to most of us. We’re generally held accountable for our time, as it keeps us honest and demonstrates to our employers that we’re committed to our duties.
Under past EPA administrators from both parties the calendars of senior managers – including the administrator – were released to the public in a timely manner via accessible platforms. Troublingly, Scott Pruitt has ended this practice.
We’ve only gotten information about his activities through intermittent details shared with the press, or months after the fact through time-consuming, burdensome Freedom of Information Act requests [PDF].
Without contemporaneous information on the activities and schedule of Administrator Pruitt and his senior staff, members of the public cannot have full confidence that the EPA’s leadership is working on their behalf.
Why the secrecy?
In the few months of Pruitt’s tenure, we’ve already seen ample cause for concern when it comes to how he spends his time: a steady stream of meetings with major industry, together with rollbacks that harm communities and put children’s health at risk.
Last week, we learned that Pruitt gathered with the American Petroleum Institute board of directors at the Trump Hotel early in his tenure, just weeks before carrying out a host of actions to benefit oil and gas polluters. Just one of those actions – delaying implementation of a national smog health standard – will alone result in 230,000 more asthma attacks for kids.
These actions have been taken with no meaningful public input or engagement. Meanwhile, the intermittent information we glean on Pruitt’s calendar and his schedule underscores his extensive meetings and visits with major industry.
It’s part of a larger pattern of keeping information from the public eye under this administration, from the White House not publishing visitor logs to the secrecy surrounding the Senate’s version of healthcare overhaul. Pruitt himself has a demonstrated history of using his office to promote the interests of companies allied with his political agenda; when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general, he submitted a regulatory complaint to the EPA authored by Devon Energy on his own letterhead.
Ultimately, Pruitt’s lack of transparency raises serious questions about potential abuse of the EPA’s limited resources for activity that contravenes or is in serious tension with important legal and ethical requirements.
Transparency is the historical norm; this is not
The important transparency practice of sharing senior policy leaders’ schedules has a long history at the EPA.
In 1983, William Ruckelshaus – the first EPA Administrator – was brought back to lead the agency by President Ronald Reagan to restore public trust after the scandal-plagued tenure of Administrator Anne Gorsuch.
One of his first actions was to issue his “Fishbowl Memo [PDF],” which vowed that the EPA would “operate in a fishbowl” and “attempt to communicate with everyone from the environmentalists to those we regulate and we will do so as openly as possible” – and specifically committed to making his calendar publicly available.
Administrator Lisa Jackson echoed this commitment [PDF] upon her arrival, writing that to “keep the public fully informed of my contacts with interested persons,” she would make available to the public, every day via the EPA website, “a working copy of my appointment calendar, showing meetings with members of the public.” She directed her senior staff to do the same. Administrator Gina McCarthy and Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe similarly continued this practice.
Just a glance at the EPA website immediately demonstrates that this transparency practice is no more: the respective “Senior Manager Schedules” tab on the administrator’s homepage has been deleted.
A true back to basics approach
Pruitt has recently made a show of focusing on “EPA Originalism” and getting the agency “Back to Basics.” He should follow long-standing EPA practice and the guidance of EPA’s original administrator, William Ruckelshaus. Pruitt should make his calendar, and those of his senior leadership, widely and contemporaneously available to the public.
Fundamental transparency isn’t just tradition; it’s key to ensuring the EPA is hard at work for the American people. Sunshine remains the best disinfectant.
I don't just play uke. I'm a nurse too. Anyone given asthma due to Scott Pruitt and his secretive, ignorant and evil policies should sue him and anyone they can manage to name in the suit!
I registered when I turned 21 when Eisenhower was president. I will NEVER vote for ONE of them again, trust me!
This shroud of secrecy surrounding your administrations activities instantly makes your activities SUSPECT. We will discover your illegitimate activities eventually, Scott Pruitt, and if you think the witch hunt going on against Obama's agenda is all-consuming, damning and effective at reversing his accomplishments while punishing the perpetrators, you'll be shocked and stunned at what the prolific hordes of environmentally-aware folks will bring down in all consuming hell fire against any illegal, immoral, self-serving or questionable activities and changes you may be enacting in secrecy, now!
Clean up your act! Transparency will legitimize your actions! Stop thinking you'll get away with activity which is wrong, that you're concealing from your employers, the American people, today! There will be a reckoning that will spin your head...
Transparency might save you! Even if it demands that you explain your actions...
Pruitt is proving himself a master at committing crimes against the environment and thus against every living being on the planet. Only the earth itself will hold him accountable over the coming years. I am deeply worried that the terrible damage he and his boss are doing will affect our country and our planet for generations, perhaps beyond recovery.
Mr. Pruitt, Do you really have no heart. Are you really owned lock stock and barrel by money, corps who do not care about anything except what's in their wallets and have no possible idea about what is right or wrong. I could not live with myself if like you, everyone hated me. Are you really that hurtful a person?
joanne strainerJune 22, 2017 at 6:40 pm