The new Superfund Task Force at at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will now be led by a lawyer who until recently represented a major chemical and plastics company. The company he worked for is known for its long history of creating toxic chemical sites.
Once again the Trump administration has put the fox in the hen house, to the detriment of the American people who the government is supposed to protect.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt created the task force last year to revamp how his agency handles cleanups at more than 1,300 toxic chemical sites in the United States.
The new chairman of the Superfund Task Force is Steven D. Cook who for more than 20 years was in-house corporate counsel for LyondellBasell Industries. LyondellBasell Industries is one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the entire world. LyondellBasell and its subsidiaries are listed in EPA records as having created over three dozen Superfund polluted sites with toxic chemicals that need to be cleaned up.
In February Cook began a job as deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management.
An Associated Press study showed that half the political appointees hired at EPA since Donald Trump became president have ties to the industries they are supposed to be regulating. Of more than 60 EPA hires tracked by the AP over the last year, about one-third worked as registered lobbyists or lawyers for chemical manufacturers, fossil fuel producers or other EPA-regulated companies.
As a candidate for president, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington D.C., but it has not worked out the way. Many observers now believe that Trump IS the swamp, and he has brought an unprecedented level of corruption into the U.S. government.
The EPA provided the AP a memo Cook signed in April in which he recused himself from regulatory matters involving LyondellBasell. However Cook can still participate in matters affecting his former company so long as his participation would affect at least five other “similarly situated companies.”
“All EPA employees receive ethics briefings when they start and continually work with our ethics office regarding any potential conflicts they may encounter while employed here,” said Lincoln Ferguson, an EPA spokesman. “Steven Cook is no different.”
It is possible that Cook will be allowed to participate in decisions involving LyondellBasell anyway. The AP reported in March that White House counsel Don McGahn has issued at least 37 ethics waivers to key administration officials, including three working at EPA.
These ethics waivers allow administration employees to regulate the very industries from which came, and where they previously worked. Truly the fox is in the hen house while corruption runs rampant in the toxic swamp known as the Trump administration.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.