The mainstream media is in panic mode.
“Hour by hour — shock decree by shock decree — a once great nation is being diminished by self-inflicted blows beyond its enemies’ wildest dreams,” Philip Gourevitch, a staff writer at The New Yorker, penned on Twitter in response to the news that the Trump administration is mandating Environmental Protection Agency scientific studies and data undergo review by political staff before public release.
EPA staffers — who reportedly cried and had to take days off for counseling after Donald Trump won the presidency in November — are in full revolt. After the Trump administration took away their social media accounts and froze their grants, a rogue staffer at the National Park Service tweeted out climate facts.
And yet, the EPA and its environmental counterparts within the federal bureaucracy need reigning in — it’s a measure that’s long overdue.
Tasked with unilaterally carrying out former President Barack Obama’s climate change policies by decree — because such legislation would’ve never made it through Congress — has emboldened many career bureaucrats within the EPA to become radical, partisan activists.
They don’t work for the American people, but rather to advance their environmentalism agenda. For some it almost takes on a religious fervor.
Let’s take for example, their use of social media.
In 2015, the Government Accountability Office found the EPA broke the law in order to promote and pass its Clean Water Rule, through a social media fire storm.
When the agency submitted the rule for public comment (and therefore criticism), they helped manufacture positive comments — and then used those comments to justify the rule before Congress.
According to a report in The New York Times the “EPA sponsored a drive on Facebook and Twitter to promote its proposed clean water rule in conjunction with the Sierra Club. At the same time, Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group with deep ties to Mr. Obama, was also pushing the rule. They urged the public to flood the agency with positive comments to counter opposition from farming and industry groups.”
The EPA even employed Thunderclap, an innovative social media tool, to help spread its message to hundreds of thousands of people, like a virtual flash mob, the Times reported.
All of this is against the law because federal agencies are prohibited from propagandizing. You see — federal agencies are supposed to be neutral in their rule-making, and let public opinion, industry, scientists and lawmakers derive the best path forward.
But that’s just too democratic for EPA — which under Mr. Obama, always got its way.
Sue and settle also became common practice at the agency in the last eight years. Rather than going through the rule-making process, which can be long and tedious, environmental activists — who were ideological allies with those at the EPA — would sue the agency.
Instead of defending the American taxpayers, the EPA would settle these cases, and in their settlement hash out new regulations. It was an exceptional way to block out the public, business or anyone else who may be affected by the new ruling.
According to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, between 2009 and 2012, the EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups. Those cases resulted in more than 100 new regulations, including the Clean Power Plan.
In 2015, Mr. Obama’s White House lauded the Clean Power Plan, calling it “the biggest step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.” And it all started with a coalition of environmental activists suing the EPA.
There’s been numerous other accounts of politics overriding sound policy and even science. The EPA’s decision to veto a copper and gold mine in Alaska before the company had even applied for permits or underwent a scientific evaluation by the Army Corps of Engineers, is one of those.
According to an Inspector General report, EPA ecologist Phillip North colluded with local tribes to stop the project before it ever started. He used his personal email to ask the tribes how to best block the mine, and edited and altered a petition under the Clean Water Act that allowed the tribes to veto the plan. He conveniently left for Australia as to avoid Congressional investigation.
So yeah, there’s partisan problems at the EPA.
Scott Pruitt, Mr. Trump’s pick to lead the agency, knows this all too well. He’s sued the agency 13 times, and understands its culture of executive overreach, lawlessness and environmental activism. That’s why he’s the perfect man for the job.
And that’s why the liberals, and radical left career staffers at the EPA, are freaking out.
• Kelly Riddell is a columnist for The Washington Times.