The Environmental Protection Agency is no longer serving its purpose and requires budget cuts, according to climate change contrarian Myron Ebell, who oversaw President Donald Trump’s EPA transition team Wednesday.
During the event hosted by the Lecture Fund with Jeremy Symons, associate vice president of Climate Political Affairs at advocacy group Environment Defense Fund, and Amy Harder, journalist of media group Axios, Ebell spoke out against the need to immediately address climate change and transparency in the EPA.
According to Ebell, who helped appoint senior staff and develop environmental policy as head of the transition team, the EPA has become oversized.
“The agency has largely accomplished its mission for clean air and clean water,” Ebell said. “This is an agency that has gotten fat and lazy, and that there is room to cut, particularly when you look at the freelancing that the agency has started to do beyond its statutory responsibilities. There is a lot of room to cut the budget.”
Trump appointed Ebell to head his EPA transition team last September. Ebell currently heads environmental and energy policy at Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank funded in part by the coal industry, according to The New York Times.
About 200 members of student advocacy group Students for Climate Security protested Ebell’s appointment by marching from Red Square to Ebell’s offices on L Street on Nov. 18.
Ebell said immediate action is not required to address climate change. According to Ebell, most polling that indicates Americans want action on climate change is misguided, as many supporters of policies targeting climate change do not consider the cost associated with such programs.
“The public does not agree with those proponents, those promoters of global warming alarmism, who say that we have to take immediate and very expensive action which will impoverish people for no benefit,” Ebell said.
According to Ebell, action to address climate change can often end up hurting those it is supposed to help.
“In Germany, which is far ahead of us in the global warming agenda, in terms of implementing its policies, electric rates are now three times higher than they are in the United States, and hundreds of thousands, and millions of people are suffering from energy poverty, having their lights cut off, having to choose between eating and heating in the winter, and this is a real issue,” Ebell said.
Energy in Germany costs on average 40 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour in the United States, according to Forbes.
Symons said Trump’s March 28 executive order eliminating climate change policies established during former President Barack Obama’s administration, including the Clean Power Plan that would have closed hundreds of coal power plants, is detrimental to the EPA’s work.
“This is a demolition plan. They went right for the throat,” Symons said. “This administration has an agenda that’s extreme, that’s I think out of touch with the public.”
Ebell said he believes the EPA should publicize its findings in order to justify the emphasis on the EPA and its continued funding.
“We have to have real standards,” Ebell said. “Trust but verify: We don’t know if they’ve made up stuff because it’s secret. What if you’re wrong? We’ve wasted trillions of dollars to no impact. What do you think all of these trillions of dollars, the impoverishment of poor people in poor countries, has achieved?”
According to Symons, the EPA has historically been transparent about its data.
“Transparency in science is important. I think the EPA has a good track record with that,” Symons said. “There’s no evidence that the EPA has made up anything.”
Symons said the EPA is necessary to tackle climate change in the United States, as states are unable to address climate problems with their budgets.
“They don’t have the money; they don’t have the expertise,” Symons said. “It doesn’t serve anyone’s interests when the states are competing in a race to the bottom to attract businesses.”
Symons added that while the EPA has made progress toward cleaner air and water, the work toward a cleaner environment is not yet over.
“The air is cleaner; the water is cleaner. That is a legacy that I inherited from generations before me, that’s one I hope to pass on to you and your kids,” Symons said. “But it wouldn’t have happened without the Environmental Protection Agency fighting for the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. It doesn’t happen by accident.”
This post has been updated.