New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman talks with Melissa Block about EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s latest moves to curb his agency’s regulations and shift the focus away from climate change.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This week, without explanation, the Environmental Protection Agency canceled the speaking appearances of three EPA scientists who were scheduled to talk at a conference about climate change. In another development, the agency is backing away from a congressionally mandated review of asbestos and other toxins. These are the latest developments in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s drive to shift his agency’s focus, which critics say amounts to gutting the mission of environmental protection. Lisa Friedman covers energy and environment policy for The New York Times. Thanks for coming in.
LISA FRIEDMAN: Thank you for having me.
BLOCK: And let’s start with the cancellation this past week of the EPA scientists’ speeches on climate change. One of them was to have been the keynote address. Is this emblematic of a policy shift on climate change within the EPA?
FRIEDMAN: It’s certainly emblematic of a rhetorical shift. Over the past several months, we’ve seen the EPA overhaul their website and replace climate pages without the word climate change. The EPA recently came out with a strategic plan for the next four years – doesn’t mention the word climate change at all. So the phrase and thinking about how to approach climate change is verboten at EPA.
BLOCK: President Trump has also abandoned President Obama’s clean power plan that was intended to regulate coal-fired power plants.
FRIEDMAN: That’s right.
BLOCK: Has the administration proposed anything new that would replace it?
FRIEDMAN: No, though they say that’s coming. You know, I think it’s important to be clear that the clean power plan has not yet ended. There’s a whole process for rolling it back. And that process really just started. The administration has said that they are going to solicit information about what a proposed new rule could look like. And, interestingly, industry has said that they want to see a replacement. Obviously, what they have in mind is a much more narrow and modest way of reining in emissions. But they have told the EPA they would like to see something.
BLOCK: There are a number of top EPA officials now who came to the agency directly from working with the oil or chemical industries. How is their influence being felt? Because critics say this shows that the EPA is now in the pocket of industry.