By Kotma Anjain
Donald Trump’s landing team for the Environmental Protection Agency assembled in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jan. 23 to begin the process of adjusting the agency from the previous administration’s leadership to the incoming one.
The team’s 10 members replace the initial transition team chosen by Trump just after the November election. Amongst the members are former lobbyists for the mining industry, former researchers from think-tanks funded by noted climate-change-denying billionaires Charles and David Koch and others who have publicly opposed government efforts to fight climate change
It’s still unclear exactly how the EPA will change under the new administration. In an interview with NPR, the team’s communications director Doug Ericksen said that during the transition period, scientists’ research would be vetted internally before being shared publicly. Ericksen, a Washington state senator, did not say whether the vetting requirement would remain in effect once the transition period ended.
“We’ll take a look at what’s happening so that the voice coming from the EPA is one that’s going to reflect the new administration,” Ericksen said.
The new vetting policy follows the release of a questionnaire by Trump’s Energy Department transition team last month, which asked for a list of names of agency officials involved in efforts to cut national and international carbon output. The policy also arrives just days after a general order for members of several government agencies to limit their public communications and not post on social media or speak to reporters.
Ericksen went on to say that during the Trump presidency, the EPA will emphasize its “core mission, which is to protect the environment and protect human health.”
Meanwhile, Myron Ebell, the head of the former transition team which the new group replaces, said in an interview with the Associated Press that Trump would likely significantly reduce the EPA’s workforce from its current 15,000 employees.
“President Trump said during the campaign that he would like to abolish the EPA, or ‘leave a little bit,’” said Ebell.
“I think the administration is likely to start proposing cuts to the 15,000 staff, because the fact is that a huge amount of the work of the EPA is actually done by state agencies. It’s not clear why so many employees are needed at the federal level.”
Since leaving the transition team, Ebell, who is not a scientist, has returned to his position as the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank which opposes “global-warming alarmism.”
“The fact is that in modern society we have the technology to deal with environmental challenges, and that’s why people live in Phoenix,” said Ebell. “Because warm is good, as long as we have air conditioning.”
In addition to Doug Ericksen, the new landing team includes Charles Munoz, a top Trump campaign organizer from Nevada who helped establish that state’s chapter of the Koch-funded political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, lawyer and environmental scientist David Schnare, who provided legal counsel for the partially Koch-funded Energy & Environment Legal Institute and George Sugiyama, a former lobbyist for the National Mining Association.
Other members include David Kreutzer, a senior research fellow at the Koch Industries-funded Heritage Foundation, Holly Greaves, a senior audit manager at the firm KPMG, Justin Schwab, formerly of law firm Baker Hostetler, Washington State Senator Don Benton, Patrick Davis, a Republican political consultant and Layne Bangerter, an Idaho rancher.