Open Letter to Former EPA’s Gina McCarthy in Retirement: A Full and Complete Disclosure of EPA’s Communications and some humility, please.
By Stephen Heins, The Word Merchant, LLC
As a more active member of the loyal opposition, I cannot help noticing your appointment as a fellow at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and John F. Kennedy School of Government, being named as an Audubon Connecticut’s Environment Leadership Award Winner, and finally your appointment by Gov. Dannel Malloy to the Board of Directors of the quasi-public Connecticut Green Bank.
That said, it is hard not to notice your continued environmental activism since you left the EPA. Your essay in Cosmopolitan, interview on WBUR News, interview for Inside EPA, University Massachusetts Lowell Connect speech, Tufts Experimental College speech, Boston March for Science speech, MSNBC interview, The Mercury interview, Inside Climate News interview to name a few have had some harsh comments about the new EPA, the President and future of US environmental policy.
But for the public record, I feel it necessary to point out several operational, political, ahistorical and nearly unconstitutional mistakes made by the EPA, especially when you continue to sing the praises of the EPA under your guidance. Frankly, there are several historical examples of the last four years that suggest the EPA under your direction made many mistakes, but they are now being ignored by the media and the general public. In fact, everyone seems to have forgotten how politicized the Agency had become.
Here is a partial list of some of the malapropisms during the last four years:
- The EPA never acknowledged that biomass—burning charcoal, firewood, wood chips and animal dung-is “the biggest source of killer air pollution in the world,” as Bjorn Lomborg put it.
- The EPA effectively stopped using “cooperative federalism,” which was the close cooperation between states and federal government that had effectively existed for over 80 years.
- The EPA used and abused the Chevron Doctrine, giving federal agencies like the EPA primacy in legal interpretations of congressional laws, and thereby allowing it to create new laws and over-regulate by using old laws.
- The Energy & Environment Legal Institute has obtained government emails that show the EPA secretly worked with environmental lobbyists to craft its Clean Power Plan for regulating greenhouse gases.
- The EPA ignored the longstanding cozy relationship between government grant-makers and grantees–like universities, environmental groups and college professors–making the EPA blind to even the most obvious conflict of interest
- There were very close (some would say inappropriately close) relationships that the EPA staff had with the researchers from Harvard, Syracuse and other contributors to the Dr. Charles Driscoll Health Study Team. This study was used to justify $37 billion of dollars allegedly saved in “indirect health benefits’ in the first iteration of the Clean Power Plan. While Dr. Driscoll claimed that the study was independent and objective, it was revealed that the study’s researchers had received $45 million in EPA grants. In addition, there is a trail of emails from the research team and the EPA before, during and after the study was completed.
- During a hearing in Congress, you admitted that “Clean Power Plan has no measurable climate impact: One hundredth of a degree. But you claimed the Clean Power Plan was symbolically important.
- The EPA did an original Cost/Benefit analysis of the Clean Power Plan, with the annual cost of $10 billion (many experts deemed far too low) and an annual benefit of about $9 million, but justified the Clean Power Plan by claiming $37 billion of “indirect health benefits,” annually.
- You applaud the EPA’s role in the banning the use of DDT and helped engineer a global ban, but you did not mention that without DDT to kill disease carrying mosquitos millions and millions of children and adults have died of malaria in Africa.
- After the Colorado toxic spill, there was a hush over the climate industry/major media about the EPA’s “1 million-gallon toxic mine spill” on August 5 (which was later changed to 3 million gallons by the EPA.) In fact, the EPA did not give the States of Colorado and New Mexico any warning for the 24 hours. EPA regional director Shaun McGrath was quoted as saying, “some of our early comments may have sounded cavalier about the public-health concern and the concern for the wildlife.”
- Even after a second toxic spill in October, no one at the EPA was ever disciplined or prosecuted. In the end, the EPA gave out small compensation to the Native American tribes, and none to local tourism and ranching. One can only imagine the financial penalties if a private company had caused the spill.
- In the federal Flint, MI water investigation, the report finds that “the State of Michigan and EPA equally at fault.” Furthermore, there is evidence that the local EPA knew about the Flint lead in the water problems for over 9 months and you as Director knew about the Flint problem at least 4 months before it became a disaster.
- The EPA “improperly” withheld Pebble Mine documents with regard to its decision to prematurely restrict the Pebble Mine project in Alaska and prompted a Federal Judge to express “no confidence” in the EPA’s ability to decide which documents it should release or redact publicly.
- While the EPA argued the Clean Power Plan was the reason for the recent emissions reduction, Ken Colburn, a former state air regulator with the Regulatory Assistance Project, said, “If anything, the Clean Power Plan is not the cause” of changes sweeping the power markets. “What you’re already seeing is a power sector transformation operating in such a way that it’s actually cleaning up the grid anyway,” a phenomenon that appears to be occurring “even earlier that we expected,” he said.
- According to a New York Times article, the “E.P.A. broke law with social media push for WOTUS, auditors found.” The EPA used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and even a more innovative tool known as Thunderclap. In total, their campaign reached 1.8 million people. The other questionable PR efforts included an asthma ad campaign and Mercury and Air Toxic (MATS) PR campaign.
- Lastly and most importantly, the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. have never been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. Given the previous writings of newly-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, the so-called Chevron Doctrine will likely no longer be used in court decisions.
Many of us have come to believe that the implementation of CPP and WOTUS would have put the EPA in charge of the entire American economy, with no demonstrated skill to manage such a responsibility. Even worse, the EPA demonstrated that it was not equal to one of its primary functions: Providing early warning in case of environmental disasters like Colorado Toxic Spill and the Flint contaminated water crisis.
While some people worry that the new EPA will discard the former EPA’s scientific work on the environmental issues and climate change (which will be next to impossible to do), I worry that we will never find out just how politicized the EPA had become. Consequently, I call on the EPA to disclose all of the Agency internal and external communications during the last four years.