30-Year EPA Veteran Writes Farewell Letter, Warns Of Environmental Catastrophe Under Pruitt


By Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
EcoWatch (8/2/17)

A 30-year U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) senior official left federal service Tuesday convinced that her agency is being steered in a disastrously wrong direction, according to her farewell message posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). She is an eyewitness to the wreckage wreaked by Administrator Scott Pruitt and his cadre of political appointees.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland has a Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering and has worked in both the private sector and state government. At EPA, she served in both the water and Superfund programs as a senior executive, managing first as a division director in both programs and then as the director of the Office of Science and Technology in the Office of Water. In 2015, she received the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award.

Her farewell message to her colleagues warned that Pruitt:

  • Has “repeals of 30 rules under consideration,” most of which aim at “industry deregulation” of an array of toxic substances and practices that can threaten human health;
  • Seeks “abandonment of the polluter pays principle that underlies all environmental statutes”; and
  • Is pursuing policies that promise to repeat human health and environmental catastrophes, such as Flint, Michigan’s drinking water crisis.
Her letter concluded with this overall assessment:

“Today the environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth. The truth is there is NO war on coal, there is NO economic crisis caused by environmental protection, and climate change IS caused by man’s activities. It may take a few years and even an environmental disaster, but I am confident that Congress and the courts will eventually restore all the environmental protections repealed by this administration because the majority of the American people recognize that this protection of public health and safety is right and it is just.”

Betraying our childrens’ environment

“As is clear from Betsy’s three-decade perspective, Scott Pruitt’s pledge to restore ‘EPA originalism’ is nothing but a pernicious myth,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, noting that the first round of early retirements and buyouts are now being processed. “In Pruitt’s EPA, it is hard to identify even a single action to better protect the environment.”

“In only a few months on the job, Scott Pruitt has become the leading candidate for worst boss in the world.”

One of the rollbacks cited by Southerland in her message is the steam electric rule requiring that “the highly toxic wastes of coal fired electric plants be treated rather than poured untreated into large holding ponds where toxic chemicals seep into ground water and overflow into surface water, contaminating public water supplies and private wells and poisoning fish and wildlife.” This rule was promulgated following “the 70-mile long Duke Energy spill into the Dan River of North Carolina in 2014.”

Autocratic and secretive

Compounding growing problems inside EPA is an autocratic and secretive Pruitt management style in which he declines to meet directly with non-political staff, refuses to use email so as to not create any record, and issues orders to create decision documents at odds with the overwhelming weight of evidence. For example, he recently oversaw an unjustified retroactive rewrite of the cost-benefit study relating the Waters of the U.S. Rule so as to make as much as a half billion dollars in benefits disappear from the analysis.

“Increasingly, principled professionals, who have proudly served administrations from both parties, are under orders to betray, rather than serve, the public interest by remaining at EPA,” added Bennett, pointing to Pruitt’s moves to cancel all employee health club benefits while traveling extensively back to Oklahoma constantly surrounded by a phalanx of armed security agents. “In only a few months on the job, Scott Pruitt has become the leading candidate for worst boss in the world.”

Link to Story

  • Link to Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland’s Full Letter, HERE.

(Commoner Call photos by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )


Wisconsin Hunters Illegally Harassing Protected Wolf Population

By Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility (8/2/17)

Washington, DC — Hunters unleashing packs of dogs to tree bears in Wisconsin woods are criminally harassing gray wolves in violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint cites state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations.

During Wisconsin’s 2016 hunting season, forty-eight hounds were killed by wolves and more than fifteen of these cases occurred after hunters were informed that they were hunting in “wolf caution areas” where wolf depredations had occurred. Wisconsin also allows for training dogs to pursue bears from July 1st through August 31st – the period when female wolves are tending to their pups and are more aggressive about defending their young and their territory.

Calculated to kill

“Wisconsin encourages hunting practices that seem calculated to cause fatal conflicts with wolves,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco, who filed the complaint today with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act. “Endangered species are legally protected from human activity which adversely affects the animals, not just physical injury but harm to habitat or breeding. Loosing packs of dogs on them absolutely constitutes an adverse impact.”

“Wisconsin DNR does not pretend to manage bear hunting in any discernible fashion, nor do they even bother to monitor what is taking place. In any prosecution of criminal take of wolves, DNR deserves to be an unindicted co-conspirator.”

Wisconsin is also the only state with a program that compensates the owners of dogs killed by wolves while hunting other animals. Under the program, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pays each hunter $2,500 per hound killed during a wolf depredation event. In 2017 alone, the state paid out $99,400 to hunters for hounds killed by wolves.

Gray wolves are classified as an endangered species in the Great Lakes region. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, criminal “take” does not require proving that the hunter intended to hurt a wolf. Take can occur when a hunter mistakenly shoots an endangered species believed to be a non-listed animal. Criminal take can also occur when a hunter’s activities, though not specifically directed at a listed species, result in take of a listed species, as appears to be the case here.

Unregulated killing of public wildlife

Compounding the conflicts is the fact that bear hunting with hounds (“hounding”) is basically unregulated in Wisconsin, despite it being a banned hunting practice in 32 states. In 2015, the state eliminated the bear hound training licenses previously required. Both residents and non-residents may now participate in bear baiting, hunting, and training without a license.

“Wisconsin DNR does not pretend to manage bear hunting in any discernible fashion, nor do they even bother to monitor what is taking place,” added Carlesco, noting that the DNR compensated individuals who had prior convictions for hunting related crimes. “In any prosecution of criminal take of wolves, DNR deserves to be an unindicted co-conspirator.”

The PEER complaint asks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to open criminal investigations of twenty-two individuals who engaged in hounding during the 2016 season in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest or on DNR-managed land and who also received wolf-related compensation for damage or loss of hounds from the state. If the agency determines that criminal take took place, PEER asks that the cases be referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution.

Link to Story


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