The US’s top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland, resigned from her position with a scathing letter Tuesday, August 1. Southerland cited issues with the Trump administration’s “myth over truth” adherence as the main driving factor behind her resignation, pointing specifically to statements on climate change and environmental protection as contrived, and in some cases, completely false.
Southerland also drew parallels between the Trump administration’s claims on certain environmental issues with self-protective measures designed to protect the industries with the highest degree of environmental impact. This includes projects like the Dakota pipeline and the entire fossil fuel industry.
“The truth is there is NO war on coal, there is NO economic crisis caused by environmental protection, and climate change IS caused by man’s activities,” the 30-year EPA veteran stated.
The former EPA official also called out Trump’s “one new rule, two repealed” assertion for being “senseless” and ridiculous, suggesting it set off a tidal wave of negative impact for the EPA and America as a whole.
“Should EPA repeal two existing rules protecting infants from neurotoxins in order to promulgate a new rule protecting adults from a newly discovered liver toxin? Faced with such painful choices, the best possible outcome for the American people would be regulatory paralysis where no new rules are released so that existing protections remain in place.”
Even if the Trump administration restored regulations, Southerland feels the EPA would lack the support to enforce them. She believes EPA budget cuts leave the agency effectively inert and lacking the ability to properly enact protection measures.
As for the future, Southerland does have hope. She believes the current administration’s changes will undergo a repeal, perhaps after Trump leaves office.
“It may take a few years and even an environmental disaster, but I am confident that Congress and the courts will eventually restore all the environmental protections repealed by this administration because the majority of the American people recognize that this protection of public health and safety is right and it is just.”
Speaking to Trump’s claims of “fake news” in the environmental protection industry, and how that might impact the EPA in the future, Southerland is clear about her belief that such claims will eventually fall by the wayside.
“So, looking back over my 40-year career in environmental protection, what jumps out is
that sooner or later, requirements and practices for the “right thing” for the environment
take hold and the claims of “hoax” and “fake news” fall by the wayside.”
But not everyone agrees; some critics believe Southerland, who is currently eligible for a retirement pension, simply chose the right moment to resign because it afforded her a very public soapbox. It’s impossible to know if the EPA veteran planned to resign anyway, and used the opportunity as a direct jab at the Trump administration, or if she really did resign for moral reasons.
Southerland closed her letter of resignation by thanking her colleagues at the agency for their support. “Thanks to all of you for your hard work and professionalism. It has been a joy to work with you, and I wish you all the best.”