The love affair the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have demonstrated with executives of high-polluting industries in recent years is as repulsive and indecent as the cringe-worthy season finales of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.”
In the season finale of the Trump administration, the agency on Wednesday published a final rule that exempts from greenhouse gas emissions regulations any stationary source whose industrywide GHG emissions don’t exceed 3 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions.
The EPA’s argument: Anything below this 3 percent threshold does not “contribute significantly to dangerous air pollution.” In practice, this gives high-polluting sectors—such as oil and natural gas, iron and steel manufacturers, and industrial facilities—a free pass under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act, a key provision that regulates greenhouse gas emissions. Power plants, however, did not receive a final rose and are not exempt.
The EPA slithered the rule into the Federal Register without a public comment period just days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, in a final snake move to hamstring a planned multitrillion-dollar initiative to combat climate change. But anybody that views this as surprising or “the most shocking season yet” is sadly naïve to the long history of this love affair.
As just one example, thousands of damning emails released to the public in 2017 revealed just how chummy of a relationship former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office had with certain oil and gas companies. But these emails were old news even then, going back to Pruitt’s time as a state attorney general. In fact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative report by The New York Times in 2014 revealed how attorneys general in at least a dozen states had developed alliances with energy companies.
Pruitt ultimately resigned from the EPA in 2018 after facing several federal investigations over a series of ethical lapses. His replacement, Andrew Wheeler—a former lobbyist for coal companies—has proven to be just as steadfast about decimating the agency and rolling back regulations intended to protect public health and the environment.
Biden’s campaign promised “the most aggressive climate agenda ever put forth by a leading U.S. presidential candidate.” I really hope that to be the case, because the EPA’s relationship with high-polluting industries is nothing but toxic for all other parties involved and needs to end now.