The Environmental Protection Agency has identified its priorities, and climate change is not one of them.
In fact, the phrase “climate change” does not appear in the agency’s draft four-year strategic plan, a 38-page document quietly released for public comment last week.
The three priorities outlined in the plan are consistent with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s public comments about how he plans to run the agency: focus on the “core mission” of clean air, land and water; “rebalance” the federal role in environmental regulation, shifting more of the responsibility to states; and enforce laws “as Congress intended.”
What doesn’t appear in the agency’s strategic plan for 2018 through 2022 is any mention of the words climate change or the causes behind it, including carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the Obama administration’s EPA, “Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality” was the first of five goals in the four-year strategic plan. That 80-page document, developed in 2014 under administrator Gina McCarthy, referenced “climate change” more than 40 times.
Pruitt has acknowledged that climate change is occurring, but has questioned the extent to which it is caused by human activities and the authority of his agency to regulate it.
President Donald Trump earlier this year declared his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, and the EPA on Tuesday also formally moved to rescind the Obama-era Clean Power Plan meant to help reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
“We are focused on tangible environmental results for the American people: cleaning up contaminated land, punishing those that break environmental laws to the detriment to human health and the environment – and providing more Americans with access to clean air, land, and water,” spokeswoman Liz Bowman told CNN when asked about the new report.
Dr. Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manger with the Union Of Concerned Scientists, blasted the removal of climate change from the report.
“Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time and it doesn’t even appear in the strategic plan for this agency – that’s stunning,” Cleetus said. “This wasn’t an oversight, this is a deliberate strategy by this administration.”
The strategic plan document also includes nods to industry – such as a goal to “issue permits more quickly.”
“Will permits for industry be rushed through at the expense of public health?” asked Cleetus. The document also promises reducing “unnecessary/unused office, warehouse and lab space,” but Cleetus argued that EPA labs “do critical work, … they routinely monitor air and water quality to make sure industry is practicing good business standards and they’re identifying polluters. The businesses who are bad actors would like nothing more than for these labs to shut down. They don’t want that oversight.”
Another key in the plan is re-focusing regulatory power in the states. But critics say Pruitt’s proposal to eliminate many EPA grant programs, and are asking how cash-strapped states can afford to handle increased regulation and enforcement.
EPA said it will accept feedback on the plan from the public until the end of October. After the public comment period, the plan will then be submitted to Congress in February.