Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is one of the bright lights of the Trump administration. He acted forcefully to get the runaway agency under control and then refocused it on its actual core mission.
That was not easy. Under Barack Obama the EPA was the backdoor through which regulation of the entire U.S. economy was attempted through regulation of carbon emissions. Mr. Pruitt put an end to that, and is working instead to clean up toxic environmental sites that have sat for years, with no action, on the EPA’s list of Superfund sites.
Mr. Pruitt talks about this a lot and often mentions one site, the closed West Lake landfill outside St. Louis, as an example of EPA neglect. West Lake landfill has been on the Superfund list for nearly three decades. The EPA, addicted to endless meetings and much talk, talk, has not come to a decision about what to do about cleaning it up, and when.
He’s correct that the delay has been inexcusable, but in his rush to resolve the problem the EPA may be about to make a bad choice, succumbing to political pressure from the left, which is never satisfied with anything less than everything it demands. Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who earlier tweeted her hope that someone would assassinate President Trump, demands that the EPA dig up the radiological waste buried there and take it in trucks to another landfill specifically designed to handle it.
For some sites on the Superfund list, that may be the correct call. But not this landfill. Both the state of Missouri and the federal government have conducted extensive testing of the levels of radioactivity, which decline year after year, and found that the levels are well within what is considered safe and acceptable.
Mrs. Chappelle-Nadal and the community activists are pushing for the radical solution and further demand that the state of Missouri buy the houses near the site and pay relocation costs of the displaced residents. Mr. Pruitt has promised a decision, and those who like what he has accomplished so far may not be happy with what he has in mind.
Mr. Pruitt is said to be thinking that the waste be excavated as demanded, and stored on site. Members of the property rights in land policy movement have tried for months to get a meeting with Mr. Pruitt in hopes of persuading him that such a decision is the worst decision. So far, they can’t get his attention.
The environmental activists who don’t want the waste resting inert in the ground instead want it stored in steel drums in outbuildings. If he agrees to excavate he will send a signal to every radical environmentalist that political pressure will move him in directions that sound science says is not necessary. He will raise considerably the cost of cleaning up every other Superfund site. This is not the businesslike approach to government that President Trump promised and what Mr. Pruitt has, so far, faithfully executed.