THOUGH HE HAS openly disparaged much of his agency's mission, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has remained steadfastly enthusiastic about Superfund, the federal program responsible for cleaning up some of the country's most contaminated industrial sites. The EPA budget brief released in February said the agency would "accelerate the pace of cleanups" and make an additional 102 Superfund sites and 1,368 brownfield sites "ready for use" by September 30, 2019. That move follows Pruitt's creation of a "Superfund task force," which laid out the program's priorities in July and, in December, issued a list of 21 sites to be fast-tracked for cleanup.
Yet even as he's offered up these promises, some of Pruitt's budgetary and hiring decisions have threatened the possibility that he'll be able to fulfill them. The EPA's proposed 2019 budget would cut the enforcement staff necessary to track down polluters and hold them accountable.
Perhaps even more undermining to the program are the people Pruitt has chosen to run it. First there was Albert Kelly, a former banker who had contributed to Pruitt's campaigns and whose bank had given him loans, appointed to head the Superfund task force last May despite the fact that he had no previous environmental experience. And now comes Trump's nomination for Kelly's boss at the office responsible for managing hazardous waste: Peter Wright, a man with an extensive history with Superfund — fighting EPA cleanups on behalf of polluters.