I am not the first to observe that compared to his predecessors, President Donald Trump has not yet appointed many people he thinks are qualified and who support his “America First” agenda to staff the hundreds of positions at various federal agencies and bureaucracies he is in charge of. Trump has indicated he believes many of the positions are unnecessary or redundant, and thus don’t need filling. He is undoubtedly correct.
However, although many positions in the federal government are likely unnecessary, by choosing not to appoint replacements, those positions continue to be filled by people picked by former President Barack Obama, who chose many of them for their commitment to carrying out his policy goals and initiatives. In many instances, Trump’s goals and initiatives are diametrically opposed to the goals and policies Obama sought to achieve. Therefore, it behooves Trump to replace these people with his own appointees as soon as possible.
As leader of a large corporation, Trump should know the importance of having the right people serving in key management positions underneath him to carry out day-to-day operations. While running his very successful business, he had corporate vice presidents to manage his various business ventures, and Trump (or people he put in place) hired general managers to oversee the operations of his properties in various regions around the globe.
Those general managers hired managers to cover many of the day-to-day duties of those properties. Trump did not manage his corporate empire alone, and he can’t run the federal government alone, either; the federal government is vastly larger than his company and its many agencies are directed by laws and their own internal bureaucratic incentives and ambitions, which often include expanding their mission beyond the directives established by Congress to justify their existence. Trump can’t bring these rogue agencies to heel unless he has his own people in place to rein them in.
The dangers from Trump’s slow pace of appointments and replacements became more evident to me while examining two recent cases. First, shortly after Hurricane Harvey devastated some coastal Texas communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 Acting Administrator Samuel Coleman, a holdover from the Obama administration, issued a decision to dredge the San Jacinto Waste Pits, a hazardous waste site in Texas. The hurricane damaged a temporary cap on the pit.
EPA now proposes to excavate, remove, and transport by truck 202,000 cubic yards of the contaminated material, to be treated and stored at locations yet to be determined. EPA’s decision sharply contrasts with the recommendation made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), which was asked by EPA to help advise it concerning the best method of permanently handling the toxic waste contained in the pits.
The Corps’ comprehensive analysis of various cleanup alternatives notes the low-lying waste pits are “subject to flooding from storm surges generated by both tropical storms (i.e., hurricanes) and extra-tropical storms,” which could strike during the dredging operation and cause a harmful toxic spill. This would pollute the area’s beaches and fisheries. Even under the best conditions, the chance of leaks from dredging and removal were found to be 99,900 percent greater than from the installation of a permanent cap.
The Corp further found permanent caps have consistently contained toxins and protected human health at similar sites around the country, with the chances of toxins leaking from such a cap being “nonexistent.”
Concerned about the effect EPA’s plan could have on wildlife, the local seafood industry, recreation, and public health, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Manufacturers Association, Texas Association of Businesses, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and other state and local officials and business groups have all announced they oppose EPA’s plan.
Although the temporary cap was damaged, EPA found none of the waste leaked from the pit. Based on the fact the damaged cap contained the toxins, installing a permanent cap, as the Corps recommends, seems like the soundest, safest option. But despite the Corp’s conclusions and state and local opposition, Obama’s holdover Coleman has chosen to move forward with the riskier option.
The second case that sparked my concern emerged in late November. In that instance, the Trump administration agreed to follow through on commitments made by the Obama administration to sign an extension of the Montreal Protocol, a treaty that phased out the use of ozone-depleting refrigerants to help battle climate change. Under the Montreal Protocol, CFCs (refrigerants) were replaced by HFCs. While HFCs don’t harm the ozone layer, they are a powerful greenhouse gas, which, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, climate alarmists claim is contributing to an allegedly dangerous warming of the planet.
Led by Obama appointee Judith Garver, principal deputy assistant secretary of state, the Trump administration agreed to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, to force the phase out of HFCs, replacing them with more expensive alternatives. Since the only legitimate reason to end the use of HFCs is to fight climate change, Trump is implicitly accepting an idea that he has explicitly rejected, namely that humans are causing dangerous climate change.
If Trump ultimately submits this treaty extension to the Senate for ratification, he will, in effect, give his climate change opponents in the environmental community the leverage they need to fight his ongoing rollback of many of the previous administration’s climate policies. They could argue in court, “You say you want to halt policies to restrict carbon-dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels because you say humans aren’t causing dangerous climate change, yet you are pushing a treaty to restrict a useful class of chemicals because they are causing climate change.”
Trump can’t have it both ways, and I fear he has been led astray by an Obama-era holdover.
It is not too late to stop these foolish policies. Trump can direct EPA to install a permanent cap over the San Jacinto Waste Pits, instead of dredging it, and he can choose either to not submit the Kigali Treaty to the Senate for ratification or to submit it to them with the recommendation the Senate reject it. I hope he does both. However, to prevent out-of-control agencies and departments from undertaking future costly, unnecessary, job-killing actions, Trump needs to get his people in place and stop allowing bureaucrats wedded to the previous administration’s belief in the importance of a powerful centralized government from making even more costly decisions in his name.