The Clean Water Blog

Ryan Zinke & Rick Perry / photo: Secretary Zinke twitter account

Checking in on the Rigged Cabinet

In the early days of the Trump administration, we expressed many concerns about the collection of billionaires and ideologues that the President was nominating for his cabinet. We mobilized our membership to vigorously oppose the nominations of Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry, and Rex Tillerson – an EPA Administrator who had repeatedly sued the EPA, an Energy Secretary who had proposed eliminating the Department of Energy, and a Secretary of State plucked straight from the boardroom of a company famous for oil spills and sabotaging climate science. We also spoke up about Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, because his record indicated that he would not enforce the law vigorously in response to illegally polluting companies, about Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services, due to his desire to roll back affordable healthcare and his abysmal environmental voting record as a U.S. Representative, and about Ryan Zinke for Secretary of Interior for his support for increases drilling and mining.

So what have these folks been up to lately? Let’s take a look at this week alone.

Scott Pruitt

This week began with reporting that detailed ten trips Scott Pruitt made to his home state of Oklahoma in his three months on the job at EPA. These trips were largely at the expense of taxpayers, and it is conceivable that the trips are part of Pruitt’s eventual campaign for Governor of Oklahoma. This is not the first time that Scott Pruitt’s spending at EPA has been scrutinized. Earlier this month E&E News reported on the large increase in spending on security for Scott Pruitt, roughly double the costs that his predecessors had. These spending increases on travel and security are happening as Scott Pruitt supports vast cuts to EPA's budget.

One of Scott Pruitt’s main priorities – rolling back the Clean Water Rule and stripping protection for drinking water for 117 million people – moved forward today with publication in the federal register, starting the 30 day public comment period.  

Today, Rolling Stone published an expose on Pruitt and his tenure so far at EPA that calls him out for stacking EPA with climate deniers, ignoring environmental enforcement, and generally making EPA staff miserable. One staffer said, “It's been six months and people are still crying at their desks."

Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke

On Monday, Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke stood behind Donald Trump at the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. While Trump’s rambling speech, on his election win and cocktail parties and whatever else came to mind, took the spotlight, the thing that flew under the radar was that the policies that Donald Trump and his cabinet have pursued are anathema to the values of the Boy Scouts. While the Boy Scouts value conservation, Secretaries Perry and Zinke push to make our public lands a subsidiary of the oil and gas industry. While the Boy Scouts value honesty, Donald Trump tells lies every day. And while the Boy Scouts value coming together for the common good, the policies of the Trump administration seek to divide people.

Also on Monday, eight Senate Democrats asked for an investigation into Zinke’s decision to reassign dozens of senior career officials last month, on the grounds that it could constitute an “abuse of authority.”

On Tuesday, news broke that Rick Perry had been pranked by Russian comedians. This story is hilarious. The part that isn’t funny is that it appears that Rick Perry has spoken more about the Paris climate agreement with “the Russian Jerky Boys” than he has with Department of Energy scientists.

Also on Tuesday, the New York Times reported on the disparity between Ryan Zinke’s pro-conservation rhetoric and the actual impact of his campaign in Interior to roll back regulations.

Yesterday, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration over Ryan Zinke’s refusal to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request about coal extraction on public lands.

Today, Ryan Zinke was caught threatening Alaska Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski over Murkowski’s vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act. While making good on this threat could be good for the environment, it’s toxic for our democracy.

And the rest.

Tom Price has been doing the full-court press this week in his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip health insurance from 20 to 32 million Americans.

Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is arguing that sexual orientation is not protected under anti-discrimination laws.

Rex Tillerson is missing in action.

This is all from this week. It’s only Thursday.