Former U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has commented for the first time on the state of the agency since she left its Washington, D.C., headquarters on Jan. 20.
"The signs I’m seeing now are extremely disappointing," said McCarthy, speaking to the Boston Globe.
Since McCarthy left her post, there have been reports of turmoil inside the EPA as the Trump administration's transition team has moved in to steer the agency in alignment with President Donald Trump's vision for environmental policy. Agency staffers have reportedly been told to cease communication with the media and halt work on a grant program for a review by the new administration. One transition team member also announced that scientific research from the agency will have to be approved by political appointees before it is released to the public, at least for the time being.
White House officials have blamed the tumult inside the agency on Senate Democrats who have been stalling the nomination of Trump's Cabinet appointees. On Feb. 2, Trump's pick to be the next EPA administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, was advanced to a full floor vote in the senate without the help of the Democrats. Republicans have not yet set a date for that vote.
McCarthy told the Globe that she is concerned about statements from transition officials that the new president may slash two thirds of the agency's staff, the gag order and the suggestion that science will be reviewed by politicians. She also worried about her legacy and any changes that might be made to the agency's focus on climate change, considering Trump has called the phenomenon a "hoax."
"Climate science is more robust than the science that said cigarettes cause lung cancer," McCarthy said. "You'd laugh at me if I said cigarettes didn't cause lung cancer. It's incredibly dangerous that they don't believe it."
McCarthy said that if science is reviewed by politicians before it is released, it can no longer be considered science.
"They were calling the EPA’s science — which is considered the gold standard around the world — junk," McCarthy said, criticizing the transition team. "They didn’t come in to understand it. If you add up all those things, it doesn’t sound normal to me. It’s disturbing."
Pruitt has apparently not been in touch with McCarthy since he was nominated, even though McCarthy reached out to him after he was announced as the nominee to offer her assistance with the transition. The call was not returned.
EPA transition team spokesman Doug Ericksen brushed off McCarthy's comments as unfounded, according to the Globe. Ericksen said some of the concerns she raised were about statements made by an official who is no longer with the transition team.
McCarthy has moved back to her native Boston, where she has accepted a position as a fellow for Harvard University's Institute of Politics.