A breaking story in today’s Associated Press reveals Scott Pruitt is claiming credit for the completion of Superfund projects that, according to records, were essentially completed before the Trump administration took office. It is the latest in a string of smoke and mirror efforts that mask the overwhelming damage Pruitt is inflicting on EPA.
The sites—located in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Alabama, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, and Pennsylvania—had undergone years of cleanup prior to Pruitt’s swearing in. Since confirmation, Pruitt has paid lip service to the Superfund program, saying he would prioritize cleanup of hazardous sites, but his actions tell a very different story.
- Less funding- not more: Pruitt and President Trump proposed a 30 percent cut to Superfund’s budget, along with a 37 percent cut to Superfund enforcement and an 18 percent cut to Superfund Emergency Response Funds.
- Alarm bells on insufficient staff: As EPA hemorrhages staff—more than 700 have left since Pruitt arrived—the EPA’s Inspector General has sounded the alarm, saying: “Due to insufficient human resources to cover all Superfund site work, some regions have had to slow down or discontinue their efforts to protect human health and the environment.”
- Unqualified and ethically compromised staffing: The hiring of Albert “Kell” Kelly—a close Pruitt associate who is legally barred from working in the financial industry and who has no previous environmental regulation or oversight experience—to lead a Superfund task force.
- Wrong approach to public health risks: Implementation of a “lean” process at EPA, which EPA insiders say could be cover up for polluting companies looking to avoid full cleanup. A remarkable training video—produced by a state agency that was run by a top aide to Pruitt—instructs government employees to treat industries as customers, not taxpayers.
- A taskforce doing work in secret: A taskforce meeting on Superfund Elgie Holstein, Environmental Defense Fund’s Senior Director for Strategic Planning. “Bragging about Superfund work that you didn’t do while trying to cut its funding by 30 percent, ignoring your own IG’s warning about lack of adequate staffing, putting a buddy in charge, and using management principles that favor industry polluters over protecting health tells you all you need to know about Scott Pruitt’s disastrous EPA agenda.”
Per EPA’s website, there remain over 1,840 active Superfund sites across the United States. Eliminating sorely need budget and advocating for shady procedures will do nothing to remedy their urgent need for cleanup.
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