The bu­reau­crat be­hind the cur­tain

An Obama holdover sub­verts Trump poli­cies at the EPA

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Ed Feul­ner Ed Feul­ner is pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion (her­itage. org).

“Pay no at­ten­tion to that man be­hind that cur­tain!” The Wiz­ard of Oz had a good rea­son for try­ing to dis­tract Dorothy when his true iden­tity was re­vealed in the 1939 clas­sic film. The last thing he wanted was for her to fig­ure how things re­ally op­er­ated.

Oz isn’t the only place where peo­ple are ig­no­rant of who op­er­ates qui­etly in the shad­ows. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is rife with peo­ple who do their jobs away from the spot­light, wield­ing a mea­sure of in­flu­ence that can even out­weigh that of their bosses.

Take the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA). You may be aware that its cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tor is a man ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Trump — Scott Pruitt. But there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Francesca Grifo, the agency’s “sci­en­tific in­tegrity of­fi­cial.”

And frankly, that’s fine by Ms. Grifo. The less you know about her and many other un­elected bu­reau­crats, the eas­ier their jobs are. Es­pe­cially be­cause Ms. Grifo’s cur­rent job ap­pears to be try­ing to sub­vert Mr. Pruitt’s.

Ms. Grifo was hired in 2013. Her po­si­tion as sci­en­tific in­tegrity of­fi­cial grew out of Pres­i­dent Obama’s stated goal to “re­store sci­ence to its right­ful place,” as he put it in his 2009 In­au­gu­ral ad­dress.

Like so many other ti­tles and goals, it all sounds pretty harm­less. But as Wall Street Jour­nal colum­nist Kim­berly Strassel re­cently pointed out, a po­lit­i­cal mo­tive was at work. This was, she writes, Mr. Obama’s “way of warn­ing Repub­li­cans that there’d be no more de­bate on cli­mate change or other lib­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal pri­or­i­ties.”

Ms. Grifo came to the agency from the far-left Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, so you can imag­ine why she was se­lected. You can also imag­ine what her job boils down to now that Don­ald Trump is pres­i­dent: thwart­ing his agenda as much as pos­si­ble.

To­ward that end is a meet­ing she’ll be host­ing soon with nu­mer­ous groups to dis­cuss ways to pur­sue “sci­en­tific in­tegrity.” The ini­tial guest list read like a who’s who of the lib­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment: Earthjus­tice, Pub­lic Cit­i­zen, the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund, the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, the Cen­ter for Pro­gres­sive Re­form, Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees for En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­spon­si­bil­ity, and yes, the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists.

“This is a gov­ern­ment em­ployee us­ing tax­payer funds to gather po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists on gov­ern­ment grounds to plot — let’s not kid our­selves — ways to sab­o­tage the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Ms. Strassel writes. (Since then, some con­ser­va­tive groups have been in­vited as well, but it took Ms. Strassel’s col­umn to do it.)

It isn’t just dis­agree­ments over pol­icy that fu­els the be­hind-the-scenes ac­tiv­i­ties of bu­reau­crats such as Francesca Grifo. They surely have their eyes on the bud­get cuts that the pres­i­dent has pro­posed to cli­mate pro­grams.

Cli­mate Wire called his bud­get “a slap in the face.” To Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can, it’s a “slaugh­ter.” Think Progress deems it “a puni­tive … as­sault on sci­ence, the en­vi­ron­ment, and in­deed the planet.”

But as en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­perts Katie Tubb and Ni­co­las Loris point out in a piece for the Daily Sig­nal, all this hy­per­ven­ti­lat­ing lacks con­text.

For one thing, some cuts to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s siz­able cli­mate bud­get are clearly in or­der: At least 18 agen­cies ad­min­is­ter cli­mate-change ac­tiv­i­ties, to the tune of $77 bil­lion be­tween fis­cal years 2008 and 2013.

There’s a lot of waste­ful spend­ing in there, such as $700,000 to a global-warm­ing mu­si­cal, and an EPA grant for “green” nail sa­lon con­cepts in Cal­i­for­nia. More­over, Ms. Tubb and Mr. Loris note, most of the money goes to “green” tech rather than to sci­ence, wildlife or in­ter­na­tional aid. “Even af­ter the pres­i­dent’s pro­posed cuts,” they write, “there is plenty of money left in the fed­eral bud­get to study and model the cli­mate.”

If Pres­i­dent Trump wants to make any head­way at the EPA and other fed­eral agen­cies, he needs to do more than ap­point good peo­ple to run them. He needs to make sure that the peo­ple be­hind the cur­tain aren’t work­ing to un­der­mine him.

Some cuts to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s siz­able cli­mate bud­get are clearly in or­der: At least 18 agen­cies ad­min­is­ter cli­mate-change ac­tiv­i­ties, to the tune of $77 bil­lion be­tween fis­cal years 2008 and 2013.

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