The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency could end the funding of 13 children’s health research centers throughout the United States.
With funding from both the EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — which is operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — the children’s health research centers operate out of major academic institutions like the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
According to a report from E&E News, this research is affecting how pollutants affect children’s health across the United States. Barbara Morrissey, chair of HHS’ Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, called the research centers “a successful and effective model of multidisciplinary, community-oriented investigations” in a 2017 letter to then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
“The network of collaborating Children’s Centers advances the field of children’s environmental health more profoundly and significantly than what can be accomplished with individual studies,” Morrissey added.
Pruitt responded, but suspiciously without committing to any long-term funding for children’s health research. Funding for the children’s health research centers is due to run out at the end of the current fiscal year (end of June/early July) without further action.
The EPA under the Trump administration has a history of being overly friendly to the industries it’s tasked with regulating. Prior to becoming EPA administrator, Pruitt sued the agency 13 times as Attorney General of Oklahoma, often on behalf of big polluters like Oklahoma-based Devon Energy. During his initial confirmation hearing, Pruitt even refused to recuse himself from agency decisions regarding the litigation he initiated in Oklahoma.
While Pruitt eventually resigned in the summer of 2018 due to multiple corruption scandals (the EPA’s inspector general even recommended he repay the agency $124,000 for superfluous expenses), his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is arguably even friendlier to big polluters. Before taking over at the helm of the EPA, Wheeler was a lobbyist for extractive industries, including oil, coal, and uranium companies. ThinkProgress reported that one of his former clients helped push for the reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument, which is close to one of its uranium processing facilities.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.