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Former EPA administrator weighs in on turmoil at EPA

Feb 2, 2017

Credit EPA

There’s been a lot going on at the Environmental Protection Agency lately.

First, the Trump administration barred anyone at the EPA from communicating with the public. Then, a White House official announced that EPA research could be subject to review by the administration.

The Trump administration has sent strong signals that it’s going to be friendly to industry.

Christine Todd Whitman is former head of the EPA under George W. Bush. When she started at the EPA in 2001, there was also a push to make the agency friendlier to business. But Whitman says this is different.

“It seems like almost a scorched earth policy with the agency. They just don’t want anything to do with it; they’d do away with it if they could, and they probably will try. Short of actually doing away with it, they’ll starve it for money,” she says. “They won’t allow them to hire any more people; they’ll make life difficult for people who are there. At least it seems that is one approach that they’re thinking of taking. And given that, we’re going to be in a bad place.”

Scott Pruitt, President Trump's nominee for EPA administrator, said during his confirmation hearing that states should have more power over environmental regulations. But he questioned whether California should be allowed to continue its vehicle emissions rules, which are tougher than the federal standards.

Whitman says she’s a strong supporter of state’s rights. But she says the EPA has access to scientists with a depth of knowledge that most states can’t afford.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep that scientific basis behind everything that’s done, to ensure that we do know what the minimum acceptable parts per billion [level] is in water or air that we can tolerate as human beings and still have healthy lives,” she says.

Whitman says there seems to be a distrust of science in the Trump administration, and she says that’s troublesome.

You can catch more of Christine Todd Whitman on the new podcast, Trump on Earth, cohosted by Reid Frazier.