The man who directed EPA operations in the Pacific Northwest under President Obama is speaking out after the resignation of Scott Pruitt.
"It was well point the time it should've occurred. It was very clear that his ethical lapses had built and built and built. Many of us who were following this closely were surprised he lasted as long as he did," Dennis McLerran said.
McLerran was the EPA Region 10 Administrator under President Obama. He fiercely disagrees with President Trump's recent tweet that "outstanding job" best describes now defunct EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He doesn't have much hope for change with Pruitt's replacement, Andrew Wheeler, even as the EPA tweeted Tuesday that Wheeler told the Washington Post, "we're all working together".
"He has been a lobbyist for the coal industry. He has an opportunity to be more balanced than Scott Pruitt was and I hope that ethically he holds himself to a higher standard, but that de-regulatory agenda, not following the science and the law is going to lead to a lot of lawsuits, it's going to lead to a logjam. And we won't be making progress in protecting the environment and protecting the climate. And we really need to be making progress on protecting the climate now, because the longer we wait, the worse the climate crisis is going to be," McLerran said.
President Trump has criticized the EPA prior to his tenure for overstepping its power, strangling industry with unnecessary rules. McLarren points at the Trump administration for strangling environmental policy, taking action that's brought multiple lawsuits against the agency. He calls it a waste of time when there's no time to waste.
"You get stuck with lawsuits and you spend taxpayer dollars fighting those and you end up having to reverse course at some later point," McLerran said. "We have a climate emergency. We really need to be taking steps to address climate change now because if we don't, we have a long-term problem that's very hard to reverse."
There is another climate that McLarren is concerned about, and it's the atmosphere among his own former staffers. He says many of the career scientists have felt left out of decision making, directed to make changes that may not reflect their body of work on issues from climate change to clean water.
"The agency has always been a science-based industry that took the time and the process to make sure that when you made policy changes, you were making those based on good knowledge and understanding of what the consequences were, the understanding of the science, the understanding of what past precedents had been, and that's just not happening at EPA now. So there is a large amount of disappointment in the career staff who came to the agency because they cared," McLerran said.
McLarren will give Pruitt one nod of approval, saying he did help accelerate the clean-up of highly polluted superfund sites — and perhaps without intending to, energized the public to do more.
"If there is a legacy here, it is that people are mad. They're energized. They're willing to sue. And they're willing to go to their local officials and state officials and say, we can't wait," McLerran said.