What a nightmare.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt promised to restore Superfund and the EPA’ s land and water cleanup efforts “to their rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.” He made this announcement in April while visiting a site in Indiana where hundreds of families must relocate because it is unsafe to live there. When I heard the announcement, I was excited. Unfortunately, soon afterwards his action spoke louder. Pruitt is not being honest. But judge for yourself.
On May 12th Susan Bodine was nominated to be assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Qualified? Well in a way, if she was fighting for the polluters. She represented polluting industries as a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP a law firm. Bodine represented the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA) from 2011 to 2014. Members of the AFPA have hundreds of EPA enforcement actions against them, including violations of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. She defended these industries against EPA.
This is the classic revolving door appointment. Since the enforcement office handles negotiations between the companies responsible for the pollution and the EPA, Bodine would be able to decide how extensive some cleanups are — and how much polluters have to spend cleaning them. Some of those enforcement action will be against her former clients.
How does she feel about poisoned communities? In testimony before a Senate hearing on Superfund in 2014, Bodine said she didn’t think most problems with the program were due to a lack of funding. Instead she blamed some of the delays in cleanups on community members who block access to sites. “If the agency can’t get access to the site, they can’t do the cleanup,” she said, adding that she believed the agency was doing its best.
Superfund’s progress has slowed to a near standstill in recent years, not due to communities who want the best cleanup possible, after all they live there. No, the problem is due to a lack of funding. A tax on polluting industries originally paid into a fund for the cleanups expired in 1995, leaving regular taxpayers to pick up the tab when the government can’t identify a polluter — or when a polluter doesn’t have enough money to pay.
Since there are fewer clean up actions the number of people exposed to dangerous pollution has climbed. In 2010, there were 75 Superfund sites where the government had yet to bring toxic exposure to humans under control. By last year, that number was up to 121, according to the most recent EPA data.
This week there were two other significant announcements related to Superfund. The budget cuts and a new taskforce. Superfund budget was cut by a third, 330 million dollars. Enforcement efforts will be cut by 40%. How does Pruitt think he’s going to keep his promise to fulfill the program, move it front and center with less money and a lead attorney who has been on the other side of the table for years representing polluters.
Pruitt’s new Superfund Task Force is even more absurd. He chose Albert Kelly to chair the taskforce an Oklahoma banker who has no prior experience with the program or with environmental issues at all, according to his résumé. However, Kelly has donated twice to Pruitt’s campaigns in Oklahoma, has spent the past 33 years working at Spiritbank, served as its chairman, which is headquartered in Tulsa. The “core competencies” listed on his résumé, include motivational speaking, business development, and “political activity.”
Washington D.C. seems to get crazier every passing day. For all of you who care about our environment, public health and fairness, take the time to get involved. Together we need to talk with our representatives at the home offices and demand change. If you don’t think that representative is listening or supporting your core issues than find someone to replace them and work on that person’s campaign. We can’t whine our way through this insanity we must get out and take actions.