Hundreds of students marched from Georgetown University to protest at the downtown Washington office of Myron Ebell, who has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. Another group, organized by Harvard University students, gathered in Boston to demonstrate at the same time Friday afternoon.
Trump, who has called the idea of man-made climate change a “hoax,” is expected to upend years of environmental priorities of the Obama administration when he takes office and dramatically downsize the scope and influence of the EPA. Trump has vowed to end the “war on coal,” stop impediments to fossil-fuel production and create jobs in the process.
The protest effort began with Georgetown University Prof. Andrew Bennett, who teaches international relations and couldn’t sleep one night this weekend out of concern about the Trump presidency. He hasn’t participated in a protest in 35 years, he said, “but I felt I couldn’t look my children or my students in the eye if I didn’t do something.” He emailed his son, a senior at Georgetown, and some other students, and by that afternoon a group was strategizing.
“This is one of the most important issues,” he said. “Other policies can be reversed in four years. Climate damage cannot be reversed.
“We need to keep paid climate deniers off the transition team. . . . Ebell is someone who has made a career out of peddling junk science for whatever corporation wants to hide what it’s doing to American health,” he added. “He took tobacco money. He’s taking fossil-fuel money. He has no science degree of background of his own, and he’s challenging the best climate scientists in the world. He has no training in economics, and he’s challenging the best economists in the world.”
Ebell said that he is not allowed to respond, referring questions to the transition team and to others at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the think tank where he works.
The institute’s president, Kent Lassman, said in a statement: “Even though we disagree, we’re delighted to see advocates for free speech and differing points of view take to the streets. As Americans, we all have the right to engage in open and public debates.”
A spokeswoman for Trump, and for the transition team, did not immediately return requests for comment Friday afternoon.
In downtown Washington, students were holding cardboard signs with slogans such as, “DENIAL IS NOT JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT” and making speeches. Justin McCartner, a sophomore at Georgetown, said they were hoping to expand the protest nationally and create pressure to prevent Ebell, or others with similar environmental views, from playing a prominent role. Students from George Washington University and the University of Maryland had joined them as they marched.
While protesters were shouting outside, Ebell was not inside the think tank; he was at work with the transition team.