The Transparency Crisis at the Environmental Protection Agency

22 Feb

“Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #Climate.” is one of a series of tweets published in a rogue act of defiance against the new policies from the Trump administration by the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Part of the U.S. National Park Services.

On Monday January 23, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a memo from the Trump administration that barred the EPA from communicating with the public, including issuing press releases, blog updates, messages, and publishing on social media. The memo outlining these new policy changes was not made public. Controversy, identifying the goal of the Trump administration’s decisions to tighten regulations on the EPA are heavily debated. These orders issued by the White House are timely considering the planned revival of the Keystone Pipeline and the possible involvement of the EPA overseeing and ensuring the responsible environmental conduct of these major oil companies.

Mission of the Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is devoted to passing and upholding regulations on environmental issues such as, policies to keep water and air clean and issuing standards on carbon emissions to reduce global warming. In a statement describing public dissemination of taxpayer funded EPA research read, “The EPA is committed to providing the public access to environmental information.”.

President Trump’s Stance on Environmental Issues

The administration’s reasoning for issuing these changes to the EPA, specifically targeting the dissemination of information to the public is uncertain. Ill-advised is the freezing of all grants and contracts, which was forced upon the EPA by the administration’s threat to disrupt key operations of the agency, including the cleanup of toxic sites and routine water quality inspections. Clearly, it is not below our Trump to threaten a government agency with restrictions aimed at preventing the cleanup of toxic sites over issues concerning social media. Rather bewildering, but elucidates the motivation involved in decision making by our president, was a statement by Mr. Trump “Global warming is a Chinese hoax.” speaks volumes of the person who leads the Free World. Aside from the politically incorrect and silly statement of “-Chinese hoax.”, to deny global warming is to disregard decades of scientific research on the matter. Certainly, facts are not an attribute of the Trump administration, so it is not a far reach to assume that personal biases, mainly global warming as a “-Chinese hoax” were major factors governing the decisions for the new orders sent to the EPA.

Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline

Naturally, on Thursday 24, 2017, the week the orders to the EPA were sent out, the President signed a memorandum that would revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. The Dakota Access project would carry as much as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. Whereas, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil every day from Alberta to refineries if the U.S. Gulf Coast. These events sparked public uproar and a number of emergency protests where thousands rallied on Fifth Avenue near the Trump building in New York City, and in Washington D.C., right outside the White House, but also in Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Later that day, the series of tweets from the rouge Twitter account branded by the Badlands National Park making statements of climate change despite the gag orders prohibiting any and all communication with the public.

Keystone Pipeline at High Risk for Environmental Disasters

Pipeline safety is a heavily debated issue that has drawn fierce opposition from environmental groups.  Over the past several years, the pipeline has caused seven different environmental catastrophes that has releasing over 7,000,000 liters of crude oil into the environment. Only seven months following the previously most recent oil spill from the pipeline, Husk Energy Inc pipeline released another 225,000 liters of oil into a major river, contaminating the drinking water of surrounding provinces, resulting in the shutdown of water in two cities. Already, the pipeline has clearly been demonstrated to be at a high risk of causing environmental disaster. With this being known, could the added restrictions targeting the EPA and its ability to alert the public of environmental hazards be an intentional weakening of the EPA’s oversight on the conduct of the Keystone pipeline.

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