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Environment

President Biden and Vice President Harris in the Oval Office.

Screenshot from official @POTUS Twitter
Reprinted with permission from DC Report

The Biden administration is asking Congress for more than $110 million to hire and support scientists and staff at the Environmental Protection Agency, which the previous president decimated.

The EPA lost almost 1,000 scientists and other employees under Donald Trump administrators Andrew Wheeler and Scott Pruitt.

The budget was cut yearly or stagnant for decades. In inflation-adjusted dollars, it was more than 50 percent higher under President Ronald Reagan than it is today.

"The 2022 budget proposal is an excellent first step in rebuilding EPA's funding and strengthening the agency," said Michelle Roos. She is executive director of the Environmental Protection Network of former EPA employees and appointees.

The proposed funding is part of $11.2 billion the Biden administration is asking to fund the EPA. That request represents a 21 percent increase.

The Biden administration is also asking for $75 million to help designate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS, as hazardous substances and set enforceable limits for the chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The poisons, made since the 1940s, are sometimes called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment and can remain in our bodies for years. Designating the chemicals as hazardous substances would give the EPA more power to clean up contaminated sites.

The "announcement recognizes that science is at the core of all we do at the EPA," said current EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Betsy Southerland, who oversaw science and technology issues in the EPA Office of Water, told the House science committee's investigations and oversight panel that the Biden administration should restore funding to bring EPA to its average over the past four decades. The cost to rebuild the budget over four years would be $11.4 billion in 2019 dollars.

Southerland was one of the EPA employees who left. She resigned in 2017, saying "the administration is seriously weakening EPA's mission."

About $48 million of the $110 million to hire EPA staff would go to the EPA Office of Air and Radiation to implement climate change programs under the Clean Air Act. The office is led by acting assistant administrator Joseph Goffman.

Bill Wehrum, who sued the agency at least 31 times as a corporate lawyer, headed that office for much of the Trump administration. Under Wehrum, who resigned in 2019 during a federal ethics investigation, the office worked to help coal-burning Martin Lake Power Plant in east Texas.

The plant spews out more sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain than any other power plant in America. Wehrum was a partner at a law firm that lobbied for the plant's owner.

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Rep. James Comer

Photo by LouisvilleUSACE is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee expressed outrage on Wednesday at the Biden administration's decision to remove a slate of Trump-appointed individuals from Environmental Protection Agency advisory boards, including Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox, who has extensive ties to the oil industry and had been accused of using his position in the interests of industry propaganda instead of those of science.

Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Ralph Norman (R-SC) sent a letter to EPA administrator Michael Regan expressing concern over his decision to "abruptly fire all Trump administration appointed members" of the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and Science Advisory Board.

The Congressmen demanded that Regan provide them with documents and information pertaining to the removals, which they characterize as "unprecedented." They accused the Biden administration of purging officials "who do not share its political beliefs."

In a March interview with the Associated Press, Regan said the removals were part of the Biden administration's determination to "reset" the boards.

"We have to identify and root out any decisions from the past that were not properly aligned with science," Regan said.

In a March 31 press release announcing the changes, the EPA noted that the Trump administration hadn't followed standard procedures for appointing committee members, had prevented individuals who had previously received EPA grants from serving, and had eliminated key air pollution review panels.

"Resetting these two scientific advisory committees will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment," Regan said.

Cox was put in place by EPA chief Scott Pruitt in 2017 to lead the panel on air pollution. He had previously served as a consultant for the American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying group bankrolled by major oil and gas companies.

Cox produced a report for the group in 2017 that claimed asthma is associated more with income levels than with particulate matter in the atmosphere, a finding that runs contrary to those of many other studies that do link pollution and asthma. Cox later said that he allowed the Institute to "proofread" and "copy edit" his research.

On the EPA advisory board, Cox attacked existing EPA methods for calculating the public health benefits of smog regulations, describing them as "unreliable, logically unsound, and inappropriate."

When Cox was reappointed to his position in 2020, Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Cox is "uninterested in following the careful science-based process that EPA has followed for decades to set science-based and health-protective air pollution standards."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.