President-elect Donald Trump has made no secret of his disdain for the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the regulations it has put out under President Obama are “a disgrace.” He has vowed to roll back Obama’s signature effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, known as the Clean Power Plan, and to scrap a litany of other “unnecessary” rules, especially those imposed on the oil, gas and coal sectors.
The man planning how a Trump administration can obliterate Obama’s environmental legacy is Myron Ebell, a Washington fixture who has long been a cheerful warrior against what he sees as an alarmist, overzealous environmental movement that has used global warming as a pretext for expanding government. Ebell has argued for opening up more federal lands for logging, oil and gas exploration and coal mining, and for turning over more permitting authority to the states. And he has urged the Senate to vote to reject an international climate accord signed last year in Paris.
The self-described public-policy wonk has for years made his home at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group that once received considerable funding from ExxonMobil. More recently, the organization has been funded in part by Donors Trust. The Virginia-based organization, which is not required by law to disclose its contributors, is staffed largely by people who have worked for Koch Industries or nonprofit groups supported by the conservative Koch brothers.
Ebell, who is not a scientist, has long questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is fueling unprecedented global warming. He also has staunchly opposed what he calls energy rationing, instead arguing that the United States should unleash the full power of coal, oil and gas to fuel economic growth and job creation.
All that makes him an ideal ambassador for Trump, who has repeatedly called the notion of man-made climate change a “hoax.”
Ebell declined to comment this week on his work or the type of people likely to be appointed to run the EPA, instead referring inquiries to the Trump transition headquarters. But it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out the likely list of priorities.
The “energy independence” section of Trump’s transition website — there is no “environment” section — reads like an oil-and-gas-industry wish list.
“Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters,” the site states. “We will streamline the permitting process for all energy projects, including the billions of dollars in projects held up by President Obama, and rescind the job-destroying executive actions under his Administration. We will end the war on coal, and rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.”
The site does say that Trump is “firmly committed to conserving our wonderful natural resources and beautiful natural habitats.” But it has no specifics on what that might mean, other than “America’s environmental agenda will be guided by true specialists in conservation, not those with radical political agendas.”
Presumably that means people such as Ebell. He has gleefully opposed environmentalists and railed against the policies of the Obama administration and others that take aim at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions — and by extension weaning the United States off its dependence of fossil fuels.
A 2007 Vanity Fair profile described Ebell as a “sound-bite artist” and an “oil-industry mouthpiece.”
“Almost no scientist doubts that global warming is here, that man-made greenhouse gases are to blame, or that if we don’t cut back on those gases fairly soon we’ll be in a heap of trouble,” the article said. “But as the ‘other hand’ in all those news stories, Ebell and his quotable cohorts sustain the impression that a scientific debate is still raging. The more studies that confirm global warming, the more ink Ebell gets.”
Last year, when Pope Francis in an encyclical wrote about the “urgent challenge to protect our common home” and said “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor,” Ebell was quick to pounce.
“The Vatican seems to have forgotten to consider the effects that energy-rationing policies to reduce emissions will also have on poor people in poor countries,” he said on CEI’s website. “Putting the world on an energy-starvation diet will consign billions of people to perpetual energy poverty.”
During an appearance on C-SPAN last year, Ebell criticized the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan as an example of the type of aggressive regulation that would hinder the U.S. economy while proclaiming to address what he said was the overblown issue of global warming.
“I think that the environmental movement has been proclaiming doom right around the corner since it was founded in the late 1960s,” he said. “It’s how they fund the environmental movement. It’s how they attract political support, by saying we have this crisis. We’ve had one crisis after another. Many of them were real problems, but not crises.”
Steven Mufson contributed to this report.
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