Scott Pruitt, a climate denier with a long history of suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was always a terrible choice to lead it. His contributions have been swift, pernicious and thinly veiled: Calls to exit the Paris Agreement; wide-ranging deregulation at the cost of public health; regular assaults on science; and a radical reorganizing of the bureaucracy. All these things are to be expected when someone with transparent ties to the fossil-fuel and agriculture industries, like, say, Pruitt, takes the reigns of the agency charged with protecting human health and the environment.

A protester at the People's Climate March on April 30, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Becker1999 / Flickr)

A protester at the People’s Climate March on April 30, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Becker1999 / Flickr)

But the most alarming news of all arrived today when the EPA announced it had dismissed several scientists from its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) and would be replacing them with representatives from the industries it is tasked to regulate. The 18-member board reviews the work of EPA scientists and makes recommendations to the EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), which drafts rules and regulations.

The booted members include a Columbia University chemist who focuses on managing hazardous waste, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University and an environmental economist at Michigan State University.

“The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” Pruitt’s spokesman said in an attempt to justify the decision.

Too bad he’s wrong. Scientists belong on the Board of Scientific Counselors — not shills of the fossil fuel, agriculture and other extractive industries. That’d be like filling the jury box with a defendant’s friends, family and accomplices. They’re not very likely to find wrongdoing, are they?

On a more profound level, a move to usurp science with special interests, especially in such a brazenly transparent way, is surely the death knell — at least until 2020 — of a proud agency that has done decades of vital work. No disrespect to the career staffers, the great public servants who must be feeling the wrath of Pruitt’s ecocidal agenda more than anyone, but as of today, I no longer trust the EPA to carry out its mission to protect human health and the environment.

Instead of dismantling the EPA as he once threatened, President Trump has, like a parasite, taken the agency over from the inside-out and reimagined its mission, which is now to protect industry’s right to pillage and pollute — environment and public health be damned!

Unfortunately, the only thing that can save the EPA now is the next administration. And you better believe it’s going to happen.

Trump’s decision to turn his back on the environment and public health just to make a few of his already loaded fossil-fuel buddies even richer is going to haunt him. The President, not exactly a calculated thinker, is underestimating how much Americans value the environment, their health and protections from polluted land, air and water. He and his cronies will be voted out with gusto in 2020, and the EPA will be righted, restored and emboldened under new leadership friendly to science.

I refuse to believe corporate interests and cronyism can so easily infect and destroy public institutions. If we as an electorate somehow let it happen again in 2020, we’ll deserve everything that’s coming to us. But until then, there’s hope.

Brian Klonoski is a writeroutdoor photographer and the VP of Strategy at Planet Experts.

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