Editorial: Trump's EPA blackout proves we need to resist - The Pitt News

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Editorial: Trump’s EPA blackout proves we need to resist

Donald Trump speaks on October 26, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Donald Trump speaks on October 26, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)



Donald Trump speaks on October 26, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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For many federal agencies, the Trump era began in total darkness this week.

White House staff shocked government employees Monday with a hiring freeze that came closely after the removal of official webpages for climate change issues, among others.

The incoming administration’s tension with climate-related agencies became even more explicit later in the week. Emails from Donald Trump’s staff ordered specific branches of the federal bureaucracy — including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture — to cease all activity on official social media accounts. On top of this, these two agencies saw a lockdown on the disclosure of any of their researchers’ scientific findings.

A senior EPA official who spoke anonymously to the New York Times suggested that the gag order was nothing new, referring to the move as “standard practice.” But the specific attention Trump’s staff paid to environmental-related government functions and the dissent between agency heads and rank and file show that the actions were part of the administration’s attempt to wipe concern for climate change from the federal agenda.

One of the most dramatic and public of the internal feuds that unfolded in front of the background of Trump’s bureaucratic lockdown occurred in the president’s favorite forum for confrontation — Twitter. On Tuesday, the Twitter account for the Badlands National Park under the administration of the Department of the Interior — one of the agencies responsible for environmental protection also targeted by Trump — made a series of tweets that appeared to challenge the administration’s official line on climate issues.

“Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years,” the park’s official Twitter account read from morning until late afternoon before being taken down by park officials. According to officials the posts were made by a former park employee who still had access to the account — not current employees of the Department of the Interior.

Despite the official denial, the tweets left their mark. The reaction against the Trump administration’s apparent attempts to put a clamp on science in the federal government continued to grow until popular outcry became too much to ignore. On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture announced that its freeze on the release of new scientific and research findings would be “rescinded.”

If the Trump administration’s intent in locking down the federal government’s environmental arm was simply to make the transition of power smoother, it seems to have failed in that attempt. If, on the other hand, the freeze was an intentional effort to discourage open government and honesty about climate change, this won’t be the last time it attempts to silence science.

The end of the freeze this week showed that, given enough public and individual outcry, we can protect the government’s ability to protect us and our planet. And given the state of our planet now, we very much have to.

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Editorial: Trump’s EPA blackout proves we need to resist