Trump appointees overruled EPA experts on pollution requirements for Foxconn site: report

Trump appointees overruled EPA experts on pollution requirements for Foxconn site: report
© Greg Nash

Political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly convinced then-EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities Overnight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley MORE to reverse course on declaring a Wisconsin county in violation of federal smog standards, which allowed Foxconn to build a facility in the area without new anti-pollution technologies.

Documents obtained by the Sierra Club and reported by the Star Tribune revealed that a top scientist at the agency questioned the basis for Pruitt's guidance that reversed an earlier decision by officials to declare Racine County as "non-attainment," meaning it would have to adopt new standards to battle air pollution to continue receiving federal funds.


“I do not see a sound technical basis for the area we are being directed to finalize in Wisconsin,” Jenny Liljegren, an EPA scientist focused on air quality, wrote in April 2018, according to the Star Tribune.

“I am still in disbelief,” added another who was not named.

A former acting air quality administrator with the EPA called the revelations in the emails "disturbing," adding that it showed a preference for political influence over the agency's actual scientific work.

“To see apparent direction from political leadership that the technical staff is objecting to is disturbing,” Janet McCabe told the Star Tribune.

The EPA responded to the Hill's request for comment by referring to a recent court filing where the agency allowed for the agency's rules to stay in effect. 

Foxconn's investment in Wisconsin has been one of the Trump administration's most touted economic victories, as the company originally pledged to create more than 10,000 jobs and invest billions in a manufacturing plant in the state.

The facility's construction has yet to produce any jobs in the region, however, and is reportedly scaling back those plans to invest in the state, citing high labor costs in the U.S.