A top Environmental Protection Agency official submitted a letter of resignation Tuesday over the direction the agency is taking in the Trump administration.
“The environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth,” wrote Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland, who had been at the EPA for 30 years, and was director of science and technology in the agency’s Office of Water.
Southerland, who spoke fondly of the decades she worked in environmental protection, told the Washington Post she was “heartbroken about the impact of the new administration on environmental protection in this country.”
“There is no question,” she told the paper, “the administration is seriously weakening EPA’s mission by vigorously pursuing an industry deregulation approach and defunding implementation of environmental programs.”
She took issue with the president’s proposed budget cuts to the agency as well as the decision to repeal dozens of environmental regulations—especially Trump’s ‘two for one’ rule that for every new regulation added, two old ones must go.
“Should EPA repeal two existing rules protecting infants from neurotoxins in order to promulgate a new rule protecting adults from a newly discovered liver toxin?” she wrote. “Faced with such painful choices, the best possible outcome for the American people would be regulatory paralysis where no new rules are released so that existing protections remain in place.”
Southerland recalled how the agency used to be a “guiding light to make the ‘right thing’ happen for the greater good”—but the Trump administration has changed that.
“It may take a few years and even an environmental disaster, but I am confident that Congress and the courts will eventually restore all the environmental protections repealed by this administration because the majority of the American people recognize that this protection of public health and safety is right and it is just,” Southerland said in conclusion.
An EPA spokesman pushed back on the timing of the letter of resignation, telling E&E news “it’s hard to believe that Elizabeth Southerland is retiring because of a budget proposal and not because she's eligible for her government pension.”