It’s hard to understand how a PhD in comparative religion makes one an expert in science or science policy, but that hasn’t stopped President Donald Trump from nominating Kathleen Hartnett White to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
But if you’re Donald Trump, the appointment — subject to Senate approval — makes perfect sense. The CEQ advises the White House on environmental policy, and the current policy of this administration could be described as slash and burn — at least when it comes to green regulations.
In truth, Harnett White is the regulatory soulmate of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt — the man who is quietly dismantling Barack Obama’s environmental legacy and rolling back protections on land, sea and air.
I don’t even know where to begin with @realdonaldtrump’s CEQ nominee Kathleen Hartnett White—she outright rejects b… https://t.co/rzbKj6tyPw— Sheldon Whitehouse (@Sheldon Whitehouse)1510191669.0
Both Hartnett White and Pruitt believe that the environment is not at risk. Hartnett White was the former chairwoman of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under former Governor Rick Perry, now Trump’s Secretary of Energy, and she has a record of either rolling back regulations or not enforcing the ones that she can’t repeal.
Pruitt is taking that exact same tack at the EPA, and it’s proving alarmingly effective.
James L. Connaughton, who headed George W. Bush’s CEQ, praised the appointment, suggesting that Harnett White knew how to get things done and how to streamline burdensome environmental safeguards.
And that’s what scares Christy Goldfuss — who led Obama’s CEQ — half to death.
"She will more aggressively go after dismantling all environmental laws — that's the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, that's the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act," said Christy Goldfuss, who led CEQ in the Obama administration. "It's creative evil, is what someone told me today.”
Since leaving government, Hartnett White has worked as a lobbyist for Texas Public Policy Foundation, a radically conservative think tank supported by the world’s biggest polluters, including Koch Industries, Verizon, State Farm Insurance, ExxonMobil, TimeWarner Cable, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Boeing. As with so many Trump appointees, many believe that the Koch brothers are Harnett White’s puppet master. She’s also served on as a pro-pollution cheerleader while she worked on the advisory committee of the ironically-named CO2 Coalition.
That won’t surprise people familiar with her work. Although she holds no scientific credentials, Hartnett White still categorically denies that climate change is a serious problem, likening it to a “secular religion.” She makes no apologies for believing that climate researchers — and the lawmakers who quote them — have formed a cult that worships at the altar of “Apocalyptic Anthropogenic Global Warming.”
Ignoring the thousands of studies that support climate change wrought by human activity and frighteningly accurate climate modeling, Hartnett White has falsely claimed said that “the official science driving global warming alarmism is based on models built to assume that natural climate variables are extremely sensitive to a relatively small increase in atmospheric CO2 from human activity. But facts on the ground contradict the climate models’ assumption.”
The few climate change studies that give any credence to Hartnett White’s assertions — just 2.9 percent of the total scientific literature — were recently reviewed by several highly-regarded climate scientists, and every single one was found to have a fatal flaw or shoddy assumptions that, when corrected, added their voices to the overwhelming scientific chorus.
But Hartnett White certainly isn’t listening. She even describes that clean, renewable energy as a “parasite” that is bad for the planet, and bad for humanity. Cheap, reliable Fossil fuels, she argues, will lift poor nations out of poverty far more effectively than any other measure.
I interviewed Kathleen Hartnett-White for @RollingStone last year. I also read her book, Fueling Freedom, a hymnal… https://t.co/1qY59mswjo— Antonia Juhasz (@Antonia Juhasz)1510178436.0
@RollingStone In Fueling Freedom, Hartnett-White (Trump CEQ nominee) describes renewable energy as "weak and parasi… https://t.co/dmeYR9IqIB— Antonia Juhasz (@Antonia Juhasz)1510178604.0
@RollingStone Fueling Freedom calls fossil fuels, without irony, the "Master Resource" and lists a series of white… https://t.co/JQzls8rV82— Antonia Juhasz (@Antonia Juhasz)1510178740.0
@RollingStone With "America First" energy strategy, Hartnett-White calls for doubling the amount of oil #fracked in… https://t.co/dka8zMfU1M— Antonia Juhasz (@Antonia Juhasz)1510178989.0
@RollingStone Hartnett-White told me in the interview, "We're not a democracy if science dictates what our rules are." /6— Antonia Juhasz (@Antonia Juhasz)1510179417.0
“[Hartnett White] has been an apologist for polluters, consistently siding with business interests instead of protecting public health,” according to a Dallas Morning News editorial, and it would be hard to argue otherwise.
Hartnett White believes that economic growth is her trump card, the hand that allows her to win any argument. Certainly, it’s a point of view in ascendency in this White House.
"Republicans will use the fuzzy math around deregulation to say it will pay for building bridges and roads and by deregulation," Goldfuss said. "This will be the changes they want to make to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, NEPA. The assault here is real."
But it’s also true that the US is reeling. Wildfires have destroyed thousands of acres of woodland and vines in California and the Pacific Northwest. Three major hurricanes have stretched FEMA resources past the breaking point, and left millions of Americans uncertain about their future.
“As communities rebuild across the country from climate fueled wildfires and hurricanes,” added Goldfuss, “her stated alliance with the fossil fuel industry makes her unfit to hold the highest environmental post in the government to advise the president on the real moral threat to our country: climate change.”
For the very first time, many pro-business insiders in the Republican Party are starting to understand that business-as-usual carries a hefty price tag.
Alanis Obomsawin, a First Nations filmmaker, explained how shortsighted the modern world had become just a generation ago.
“When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”