As the Trump administration continues to gut regulations meant to protect public health and the environment, the Associated Press reports Thursday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffers are being forced to attend anti-leaking classes this week as part of a wider effort by the White House to stem the flow of unauthorized information reaching the public.
The AP, which obtained training materials from the Environmental Protection Agency's hour-long anti-leaking class, reports how "a three-page fact sheet sent to EPA employees as part of the training warned that leaks of even unclassified information could have serious consequences to national security."
The document reportedly provided examples detailing how government secrets previously have been revealed through espionage, hacking, or leaks to the press, and noted that "enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm U.S. interests."
The mandatory anti-leak training follows Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcment last month that the Justice Department was launching an intense war on leaks, and planned to investigate and possibly prosecute government employees who share unauthorized information. Sessions' comments, as Common Dreams reported, were immediately denounced by press freedom groups, journalists, and civil libertarians as "a direct attack on the First Amendment."
Though leaks have been a part of all presidencies in recent memory, since the beginning, "the Trump White House has gushed," and multiple federal agencies—concerned about the long-term consequences of the administration's policies—have followed suit, including the EPA.
The agency has made headlines in recent months for being too cozy with the fossil fuel industry and purging federal scientists, which has reportedly spurred internal strife at the EPA and even provoked some staff to publicly resign in protest. In April, the EPA removed pages about climate change from its website.
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And while the Trump administration attempts to suppress important information as it champions deregulation efforts, many of its moves to cut environmental protections have been blatant and public.
Since President Donald Trump took office in January and appointed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt—who has stacked the agency with deniers of climate change and even forced EPA agents "to ditch climate crime investigations in order to serve as personal bodyguards"—the agency has:
- rolled back water pollution limits for coal plants;
- restricted grants for climate research;
- failed to enforced penalties for violating the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other anti-pollution laws;
- attempted to delay a pollution rule that sets methane emission standards for the oil and natural gas industry;
- allowed miners to move forward with a project that endangers a critical watershed in Alaska;
- refused to ban a pesticide shown to damage kids' brains;
- and launched several other attacks on regulations that aim to protect the public and the planet from the chemical and fossil fuel industries.
Amid conflicting recent reports the president may reconsider his June decision to exit the Paris climate accord, the Trump administration, as Kate Aronoff reports for The Intercept this week, is "quietly unraveling a slew of policies, precedents, and regulations in ways that could make it much more difficult to plan for a low-carbon future after they're gone."
And regardless of whether Trump keeps his promise to exit the Paris agreement, as Aronoff notes, "the central feature of the U.S. commitment that year was the Clean Power Plan," and "Scott Pruitt has spent his tenure so far as Environmental Protection Agency administrator making every attempt to dismantle it from within; his agency is currently in the process of reviewing the plan and proposing its replacement, and on a longer term mission to cripple its own authority."
"Put simply, whether Trump stays in the agreement means little if the chief means of compliance—the Clean Power Plan—is gutted," she concludes, while adding that "like the Paris agreement, the climate policies Pruitt and the rest of Trump's team seem hellbent on destroying were already totally ill-equipped to handle the crisis at hand."