MEMO: Trump’s Toxic Team: Polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe

May 22, 2018

Trump’s Toxic Team

Polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe

The Trump Administration is perpetuating an unprecedented culture of corruption, cronyism and abuse of taxpayer money .  Nowhere is that more visible – or more damaging – than in the Trump Toxic Team’s sell-out of our environment to their polluter donors.

The Trump Toxic Team is beholden to their special interest friends’ dirty energy agenda, and are launching an all-out assault on the clean air our children breathe and the clean water they drink.  A staggering number of top Trump officials are racing to weaken critical environmental protections, sell off our sacred, protected lands and give big corporations the green light to pollute our communities and threaten the health and well-being of our families.

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe in protecting the natural heritage that has made America the greatest country in the world.  Our government should be working to protect and preserve our environment for future generations, and investing in the good-paying, clean energy jobs of the future.

Yet, Republicans in Congress refuse to hold Trump’s Toxic Team accountable.  House Democrats will continue to demand answers from this Administration and pursue policies that protect our environment and natural resources for future generations.

Below is a Who’s Who of Trump’s Toxic Team and the impact of their corruption on the health of our nation.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Corruption, Cronyism and Abuse of Taxpayer Money

Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator:

  • Raised millions of dollars as Attorney General of Oklahoma from oil, gas and coal companies for his campaign and chaired a dark money group which organized state challenges to environmental regulations that could hurt polluters.
  • Sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma AG to block public health protections, in exchange for campaign contributions from his polluter co-litigants.
  • Facing more than 12 federal investigations into Pruitt’s corruption, influence peddling, and waste of millions in taxpayer money on his lavish lifestyle, including a trip to Disneyworld and the Rose Bowl.
  • Cost taxpayers millions for a secret, private phone booth for his office and 24/7 security.
  • Skirted EPA’s ethics and conflicts of interest rules as well as the White House’s Ethics Pledge to bring Karen Beck, a former chemical industry lobbyist, on board to regulate chemical safety.

Bill Wehrum, EPA Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation:  

  • Dedicated his career to increasing toxic air pollution and eroding environmental laws, while suing EPA 31 times on behalf of his corporate polluter clients.
  • Rejected by the Senate in 2006 for confirmation to the position he now holds for being a “doctrinal hit man” and a hired gun for polluters.
  • Attempting to resurrect the most dangerous and illegal dirty air policies that he championed during the George W. Bush Administration, violating the Clean Air Act more often and allowing more illegal air pollution than any previous EPA administration.

John Konkus, EPA Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Public Affairs

  • Received an ethics waiver from Pruitt to work for undisclosed private clients while serving at the Agency despite being a former political consultant for Koch Brothers entities.
  • Screens research and education grants at EPA for “political suitability” including any mention of climate change, which he calls “the double c-word,” and blocks EPA scientists from attending conferences and presenting research on climate change’s impact.

Jeff Sands, Former EPA Senior Agricultural Advisor:

  • Received a waiver from ethics rules allowing him to work on the issue such as pesticide regulations that he once lobbied EPA on behalf of his former employer.  In February 2018, EPA drastically reduced a fine against his former employer, Syngenta, for violating pesticide rules from $4.9 million to $150,000 without explanation or documentation.  Sands left EPA the following month.

Patrick Traylor, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance:

Why It Matters to You:

Established by President Nixon out of a growing concern about environmental pollution, the EPA has protected the health and well-being of our communities and our environment for nearly 50 years.  Rather than further this vital mandate, Administrator Pruitt and his Toxic Team have given a free pass to corporate polluters to spew tons of cancerous toxins into our air and water with zero consequence.  Their rejection of scientific facts in the face of the growing climate crisis, blatant influence peddling and giveaways to the world’s worst polluters has cost the American people millions and risks the lives and future of our nation’s children.

Department of the Interior (DOI)

Corruption, Cronyism and Abuse of Taxpayer Money

Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior:

  • Repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for the American taxpayer, and has faced an unprecedented number of federal investigations for misuse of taxpayer funds and lavish, politically-motivated travel.
  • Threatened to withhold vital funding from the people of Alaska in retribution for Senator Murkowski’s vote to save their health care. A federal investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office for this unethical behavior could not proceed because Zinke refused to cooperate.

David Bernhardt, Deputy Secretary of the Interior:  

Daniel Jorjani, Principal Deputy Solicitor, Department of the Interior:

Why It Matters to You:

Secretary Zinke and his cadre of corrupt cronies have steamrolled over their solemn duty to protect America’s national heritage, turning the Department of Interior into a tool to further enrich wealthy special interests and big corporate donors.  The American people deserve an Interior Department committed to preserving our parks, coastlines, forests and waterways, but this Toxic Team is selling off our natural resources and public lands to the highest bidder, jeopardizing the strength of local economies and undermining the stability of hard-working families.

Department of Energy

Corruption, Cronyism and Abuse of Taxpayer Money

Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy:  

  • Received more than $11 million in campaign contributions from big oil, gas and coal mining companies, like the CEO of Murray Energy.
  • Complicit with his son’s creation of an energy investment fund that refuses to disclose either its donors or investments, making possible conflicts of interest nearly impossible to spot.
  • Condoned his presidential campaign manager, Jeff Miller, becoming a lobbyist for Energy Transfer Partners, the company pushing the Dakota Access pipeline, and AECOM, who is lobbying for Energy Department contracts at nuclear sites.  Miller’s firm earned more than $2 million in lobbying income, the biggest chunk from the oil and gas industry.

Why It Matters to You:

Instead of working on behalf of the American people to achieve energy independence and promote renewal energy sources that will be the foundation of the 21st Century economy, Perry and his Toxic Team are selling off our health and safety to the highest bidder.  Secretary Perry has proposed making American consumers pay more for electricity by propping up uncompetitive dirty energy companies. While these policies make Perry popular with donors, they make America less competitive globally as other countries make advancements to transform their energy infrastructure, resulting in a devastating impact on our nation’s economic growth moving forward.