The presidential transition team for U.S. EPA included members whose identities have not been officially disclosed, including one who said yesterday that candidate Donald Trump’s call for abolishing the agency "struck a chord with me."
The transition did not list the unknown aides among nine "landing team" members who conducted interviews with EPA employees.
They were part of the broader "action team" responsible for producing an "action plan" for the agency, Myron Ebell, who headed the transition effort, said in an email exchange yesterday with E&E News.
Ebell declined to name those extra members, saying he considers their identities confidential unless they choose to disclose their involvement.
At least one participant has been happy to reveal himself. Steve Milloy, an attorney and longtime legal foe of EPA, highlights his role on his Twitter biography and noted it again yesterday during a panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"So I had been working on plans for fixing EPA, and it’s a dream come true after fighting EPA for 25 years," Milloy said. "I think you’re starting to see the fruits of that."
Milloy, a fierce critic of mainstream climate science who runs the website JunkScience.com, has been involved in repeated legal challenges against EPA.
A 2012 lawsuit, for example, likened tests exposing people to diesel engine particulate emissions to medical experiments performed in Nazi concentration camps.
Another from last year sought to disband an EPA particulate matter review panel on grounds that most of its members had received grant funding and were thus biased in favor of the agency’s position on stricter regulation. Both suits were unsuccessful.
In an interview late yesterday, Milloy also declined to list the other undisclosed members of the transition team or say how many there were.
Legally, only those who go into EPA offices have to be identified, he said, and that’s primarily to let the agency know who they are.
Trump has consistently made EPA a target, at one point last year suggesting the agency could be eliminated. That "struck a chord with me," Milloy said at yesterday’s CPAC event.
The Trump transition team’s approach differed from that taken by the incoming Obama administration eight years ago, said Bob Sussman, who co-chaired the EPA team at the time and went on to serve as the agency’s senior policy counsel.
The Obama team revealed all of the approximately 15 EPA transition members, in part to let the public gauge whether there were any conflicts of interest, Sussman said in a phone interview today. There was no distinction between the "landing team" and a broader "action team," he said.
"It’s concerning," Sussman said, if other undisclosed participants were involved in the Trump transition effort. He added, "We should know who they are."
The Obama transition team produced a report of findings and recommendations for the incoming EPA leadership that was not made public on the grounds that it was an internal deliberative document, Sussman said.
Similarly, the final version of the Trump team’s action plan has not been released, although the media company Axios last month reported elements of what may have been an earlier draft (Greenwire, Jan. 23).
Among the recommendations: halting EPA’s funding for scientific research and overhauling the agency’s science advisory process to eliminate bias and conflicts of interest.
Milloy yesterday told CPAC attendees that he hoped to see EPA "removed" from all scientific research.
"Ultimately, EPA needs to be removed from science," he said. "You can’t be responsible for producing science and then regulating based on the science you invented. Those functions just have to be separated."
After the Axios story ran, an administration spokesman said Scott Pruitt, Trump’s then-nominee to head the agency, knew nothing about the action plan.
Pruitt won Senate confirmation for the post last Friday; he is now "supposed to implement" the plan, Milloy said.
Doug Ericksen, an agency spokesman, did not reply to an email this morning requesting a copy of the document and asking whether Pruitt plans to implement it.
In a Tuesday speech to EPA employees, Pruitt appealed for civility. John O’Grady, president of an American Federation of Government Employees council that represents thousands of agency workers, had not seen the plan but fully expected Pruitt to pursue it.
"He’s a good soldier, and I think that it’s inevitable," O’Grady said in an interview today.