By Madeline Sheehan Perkins
May 5, 2017 - Top staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are signaling they are on the side of the coal industry with remarks given by senior policy advisor Mandy Gunasekara at the coal industry's Eastern Fuel Buyers conference.
"I'm here to talk to you to make sure what we're doing in D.C. is beneficial for you. If it's not working, I want to hear about it so that we can work it out," Gunasekara told the crowd of coal sector employees, according to the financial news and data-analysis website SNL.com.
The new EPA administration signals a departure from President Barack Obama's EPA, which passed actions like the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule to limit power plant emissions and support water protection.
The Trump administration has rolled back 23 environmental protections to date. Gunasekara took exception to that notion, saying "we're rooting out what is superfluous and what is not necessary to actually achieve meaningful environmental protection."
She added, "We'll do a lot more. We're going to keep going" on rolling back existing environmental regulation. Gunasekara told the crowd she will help "tear back the problems that stemmed from decisions of the last administration."
Coal miner Jaden Fredrickson, 26, of Cheat Lake, West Virginia, waits for the arrival of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt who visited the Harvey Mine on April 13, 2017 in Sycamore, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Justin Merriman, Getty Images
Gunasekara also said that she and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt intend to do everything they can to keep EPA legislation out of the courts: "The administrator has been very, very clear that he wants us to do what we can to keep the decisions we should be making out of the courts," she said.
Gunasekara also indicated that the EPA may "redirect some of the expertise," SNL reported, of current EPA empoyees.
Gunasekara's remarks were met with criticism from the Sierra Club.
The organization's executive director Michael Brune went on a tweetstorm about the speech:
Not everyone was critical about the new administration. SNL reported that Jim McCaffrey, senior vice president of energy marketing for a CNX Coal Resources mine in Pennsylvania "praised Pruitt and the Trump administration." According to the publication, McCaffrey said Pruitt was receptive to him and enthusiastic about how he could help the mine.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will meet with Ivanka Trump and Lisa Murkowski next Tuesday to discuss the Paris climate agreement, before a meeting with the White House.
Pruitt has been outspoken in the past about his belief that the US should abandon the agreement, calling it "a bad deal for the country."