7 former EPA admins offer to help Congress with agency oversight

Trump seeks to roll back clean air, water regs

By Ellie Kaufman, CNN
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

EPA building in Washington, D.C.

(CNN) - Seven former Environmental Protection Agency administrators have offered lawmakers help to investigate the department, saying "much is at stake" as the Trump administration seeks to roll back clean air and water regulations, among other policy changes.

The former administrators who signed the letter served under both Democratic and Republican presidents, including Carol Browner, who served under Bill Clinton, Lee Thomas who served under Reagan and Christine Todd Whitman, who served under George W. Bush.

The letter was first reported by E&E News.

"We are united that there has never been a more important time for us to put aside our differences and advocate collectively for public health and the environment. Time is of the essence and much is at stake," the letter states.

"As you go about creating an oversight strategy and a path forward, we would like to convey our personal willingness to connect you with resources on substance and sounding boards on priorities," it adds.

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, the EPA has come under intense scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers and environmental advocacy groups. Trump's first EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in July amid a host of ethics scandals.

After Pruitt's resignation, his deputy and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler assumed control of the agency. Wheeler continued Pruitt's agenda of aggressive regulatory rollbacks. Wheeler also appointed all new members to the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee that advises the agency on air quality standards and disbanded the supporting committees that helped with the larger committee's work, moves that outraged many in the scientific community.

Under Wheeler, the agency proposed the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which would allow states to set their own standards for carbon dioxide emissions levels from coal plants instead of a national emissions standard former President Barack Obama proposed with his Clean Power Plan. The EPA also proposed rolling back Obama-era requirements on how energy companies monitor and repair methane leaks in September.

The letter lists five suggestions for how the committees can conduct oversight moving forward, including affirming "the bipartisan public health and environmental mission of the agency" and supporting the "essential role of rigorous consensus science, economics and engineering" and making sure they are used in "EPA decisions and regulations."

The letter offers to connect members of Congress with the Environmental Protection Network, a group of more than 350 EPA alumni. The letter was sent on Environmental Protection Network letterhead.

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