PEERMail: David Bernhardt and the Banality of Evil

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David Bernhardt and the Banality of Evil

As disturbing Trump appointees go, Scott Pruitt at EPA is hard to top.  Well, somebody else who has that potential is awaiting confirmation – David Bernhardt as Secretary of Interior.

For the past nearly two years, Bernhardt has been Deputy Secretary, serving as Mini-Me to the Marlboro Man act of Ryan Zinke who was finally forced out by mounting ethics woes.

Despite a lower profile than Zinke, Bernhardt has been the brains of a drive to maximize extraction from public lands and minimize conservation.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bernhardt claimed that he has “a very balanced agenda” but admitted that his department has “room to grow” on wildlife protections and environmental stewardship.  Ya think?

This guy is about as balanced as a Mobius strip: only one side with contortions to give the illusion of depth.

As a former lobbyist for oil & gas interests, agribusiness, and other interests affected by Interior, he should be recused from even walking into the Main Interior Building. Yet, he continues to benefit his former clients because he is not just a walking conflict of interest, he is a galloping one.

Adding insult to ecological injury, Bernhardt now holds himself out as an ethical paragon, even as he is awash in slimy self-dealing. Apparently, gaslighting America is part of an “Energy Dominance” strategy.

By the time the revolving door deposits him back in the lap of his industry clients, he may have done more harm to the nation’s vast heritage of public lands than any other individual.  Help us stop him.

The Fire Next Time – What’s in It?

PEER just won a lawsuit forcing the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to promulgate a long-neglected regulation requiring the reporting of all emissions following an industrial accident. This will give affected communities the right to know what chemicals they are subjected to when factories and refineries catch fire or explode in their midst.

Since its legal excuse for ignoring this nearly 30-year-old Clean Air Act mandate is so weak, the CSB is unlikely to appeal.  That means the agency will have to hustle its bustle if it is to meet the court-ordered deadline of a final rule within 12 months. To save the CSB some time, PEER is already drafting the regulation.

On the Brink of “Venezuelan-style Socialism”

The woman who handed Sen. James Inhofe the snowball that he famously threw across the Senate floor to refute the notion of global warming has been helping to direct EPA climate and air quality policies for the past two years. Surprised? Not really.

Last week, Mandy Gunasekara resigned as principal deputy administrator of EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation with a letter of resignation to President Trump on official EPA stationery declaring that “Ensuring eight years of your leadership is of utmost importance” and decrying “dangerous rhetoric from the far-left supportive of Venezuelan-style socialism, government take-overs, and crony ‘green new deals.’”

The letter was circulated by the EPA office of Public Affairs – a violation of the Hatch Act which prohibits political activity on official time.  PEER filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel asking that the responsible people be identified and fired.

It took the EPA press flaks a whole day to come up with an explanation: that it routinely provides “resignation letters and statements when asked.” Yeah right; the Office of Public Affairs daily rifles through its handy bin of goodbye missives and hands them out to waiting reporters.

In another case, PEER demonstrated that EPA’s press office is a toxic fake news factory that tries to smear departing employees who express concerns. Hopefully soon, they will have new jobs that will allow them, like Mandy, to work openly and not surreptitiously for the Trump reelection team.

Last One Out, Please Flush the Bay

Florida just went through an unprecedented clean water crisis involving the colorful toxic combination of red-tides and explosions of blue-green algal blooms. PEER has repeatedly pointed out that the Sunshine State’s deteriorating water quality coincides with its evaporating anti-pollution enforcement effort.

Our latest legal complaint focuses on Tampa Bay whose municipal water treatment plant discharges millions of gallons of pollutants a day with hundreds of sewage overflows while being in “Significant Noncompliance” with its permit.

A spokesperson for the city’s treatment facility categorically denied our charges, sniffing “We don’t know why Tampa’s been singled out by this group.”

Actually, Tampa is not being singled out as this is the tenth enforcement complaint PEER has filed during the past year about massive amounts of illegal wastewater gushing out of Florida plants. Our point is that if anyplace needs a Green New Deal, it is Florida.

Too Close for Comfort

The Bureau of Land Management’s Branch of Pipeline Monitoring (BLM/BPM) oversees the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.  PEER discovered that, without any public announcement, BLM/BPM cut its engineering oversight on the more than 40-year-old structure. If you want to know the reason why, the “Point of Contact” listed on the BLM/BPM website is Alyeska, the consortium of oil companies that owns the pipeline.  Why bother with a government middle man?

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