By John O’Grady
Late last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired Definers Public Affairs to scrutinize federal regulators, track news and manipulate press coverage.
Definers is a front for conservative operatives who run America Rising PAC. That is of profound concern to EPA employees who oppose Administrator Scott Pruitt’s anti-science agenda and his “back-to-basics” mandate benefitting fossil fuel polluting industries.
For the last year, America Rising has targeted scientists, engineers, attorneys and others who work at EPA and disagree with Pruitt, many of whom are members of AFGE National Council of EPA Locals #238 (AFGE Council 238).Ess. Grid Example Posts
Since February, America Rising has issued over 40 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain records from EPA dissenters nationwide. Their Twitter feed boasts “by their nature, FOIA requests are actually very democratic and transparent.” And, that since 2013, America Rising submitted “more than 4500 FOIAs. That’s a lot of documents obtained.”
Previously, EPA awarded research contracts to non-political firms. But Definers/America Rising have formidable conservative ties. Now, they have access to EPA management to intimidate federal employees and stoke hostile workplaces. Using taxpayer money, these bounty hunters continue monitoring public employees at U.S. EPA who took an oath to protect the health and safety of all Americans.
Under these conditions, the term “Orwellian” comes to mind. The government is censoring EPA websites of information about climate change and related pollution risks to public health. Currently, those hired guns at Definers are monitoring the dedicated watchdogs who know what information is being withheld, and are disputing it. Somehow seemingly unbeknownst to the EPA administrator, Congress gives the EPA workforce the authority to enforce environmental standards, champion scientific integrity and often speak out about it.
“Nineteen Eighty-Four” was written in 1949 when American and British troops fought and died protecting the world from fascism. Nearly 70 years ago, Orwell warned us about totalitarianism in other (nascent communist) states.
America had already shed too much blood fighting the authoritarian scourge and banished any chance the “thought police” would take up residence in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Yet, in 2017, we object to Pruitt’s “Orwellian” activities, reminiscent of sordid regimes accepting surveillance, enabling thought control and rationalizing the language of lies that normalizes them. This time, even more objectionable and distasteful is that our clean air and water is being put at risk. They are privatizing our public resources and permitting them to the highest bidder.
Pruitt’s deliberately obscures and distorts, or reverses the meaning of words and directives about public health and environmental safeguards at U.S. EPA.
When science is destabilized, biased or directed to advantage polluting industries, 300 million Americans’ health and safety is jeopardized.
Pruitt’s EPA is spending taxpayer money on political operatives to discourage mainstream news reports about the agency and monitor federal EPA employees who speak out.
In one case, the name of an EPA employee/union leader appeared in the press protesting EPA budget cuts. About a week later, America Rising launched an investigation into that employee’s email account. Workers objecting to EPA’s polluting-inclined plans may be further intimidated. So, beware. America’s “enviro-thought” police are watching, listening and reading.
Ongoing, Pruitt weakens regulations and deprives EPA of the budget and staffing needed to protect human health and the environment. Hiring a firm that profits by supporting the dismantling the U.S. EPA and establishing a “war room” is un-democratic. Pruitt’s tactics reek of impropriety, and are the latest in a political transformation that began Jan. 20, 2017, when President Trump signaled his administration would side with polluters.
EPA’s mission is not to undermine the work of our government’s engineers, regulators, scientists or union representatives ensuring that all Americans are safe. Orwell said, ”To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” This Administration is eroding our ability to be outraged, attacking science and truth until no one trusts accurate data, and is stifling the courageous from speaking out.
John J. O’Grady serves as President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National Council of EPA Locals #238, representing over 9,000 EPA employees.