Environmental advocates recoiled today at the news that leading climate change skeptic Myron Ebell is leading Donald Trump's transition team for U.S. EPA.
Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute and a prominent foe of environmental advocates and climate scientists, is spearheading Trump's transition plans for EPA, according to sources close to the Trump campaign (E&E Daily, Sept. 26).
"Myron Ebell is a longtime climate-science-denying, red-baiting, anti-public-health-protection advocate," said Daniel Weiss, a longtime environmental advocate. "It's not surprising that Donald Trump would pick someone so far out of the mainstream. It would be like picking Colonel Sanders to protect your chickens."
Michael Mann, director of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center, has sparred frequently with Ebell and CEI, and Ebell has publicly disputed Mann's climate change research.
Mann wrote on Twitter today that Ebell's role in the GOP transition represents "why a Trump presidency would be a threat to the planet."
In an email, Mann said Ebell and CEI are "at the very center" of a decadeslong web of "deceit" by "right wing think tanks and industry front groups who have abetted the fossil fuel industry in their campaign to deny the reality and danger of human-caused climate change."
Mann called it "truly disturbing that any prospective president would consider appointing anyone associated with CEI to any higher office, let alone the EPA. If ever there was a case of the fox guarding the henhouse, this would be it."
CEI's opponents have long criticized the group for taking money from fossil fuel industry groups like Exxon Mobil Corp., arguing that the cash has influenced the think tank's climate skepticism.
Bill Snape, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Ebell "is a guy who thinks we should trust Exxon, BP and Shell Oil companies more than elected officials." Snape added, "His scientific views are way outside the mainstream of peer-review consensus."
Ebell told Vanity Fair in 2007, "We're not beholden to our donors, because we don't say, 'If you give us this money, we'll do this project.'" He added at the time, "I can't even quite tell you who supports us on global warming."
Greens see Ebell's role in the Trump transition as confirmation that, if elected, Trump would aim to dismantle the Obama administration's climate change policies and drastically reshape or eliminate the agency (see related story).
Bob Sussman, who worked on the EPA transition for the Obama administration and has served in top roles at the agency, said the selection "is not sending a reassuring message about the future of EPA under a Trump administration.
"Myron Ebell is a longtime skeptic and naysayer about everything that EPA does and indeed everything the Obama administration has done on environmental policy and climate. So we have to expect his advice to Trump will be very, very negative and non-supportive of the agency's mission," Sussman said.
Last fall, Trump vowed to cut EPA if he won the White House (Greenwire, Oct. 19, 2015). The Republican Party's platform stopped short of that but promoted turning EPA into a bipartisan commission (Greenwire, July 19).
Weiss said Ebell's transition role "makes it clear that Trump was serious when he said he wanted to destroy the EPA. ... Ebell is just the man to do that."
But some people in the energy world see Ebell's involvement as a promising sign for a possible Trump administration.
"Myron is aligned with many of Donald Trump’s public statements about EPA’s actions. He will be a great addition to the transition team," said Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research.