Politics

EPA tries to praise Trump, ends up criticizing him instead

President Donald Trump (left) greeted US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt (right) Tuesday at EPA headquarters.
Ron Sach/Getty Images/Pool
President Donald Trump (left) greeted US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt (right) Tuesday at EPA headquarters.

The Environmental Protection Agency wanted to highlight some of the praise President Donald Donald Trump has received for his new executive order rolling back climate change regulations.

So on Thursday the EPA did what government agencies do whenever the president signs a new policy: sent out a news release loaded with glowing quotes from supporters.

Only one of the quotes - the first on the list, to be exact - wasn’t so glowing.

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‘‘With this Executive Order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand,’’ read a statement in the release attributed to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

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‘‘Today’s executive order calls into question America’s credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime,’’ it read. ‘‘With the world watching, President Trump and Administrator Pruitt have chosen to shirk our responsibility, disregard clear science and undo the significant progress our country has made to ensure we leave a better, more sustainable planet for generations to come.’’

Not exactly the glittering accolade the president might have expected from a coal country Republican.

Bloomberg BNA reporter Patrick Ambrosio was among the first to point out the obviously off-message excerpt.

Indeed, the statement actually came not from Capito but from Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, who blasted Trump’s executive order on Tuesday.

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An honest mistake, or a deliberate act of sabotage from a rogue operator in the EPA press office?

Unclear. But the mix-up did come at a time of unprecedented tension between Trump’s political appointees and the EPA’s rank and file, as The Washington Post has reported. Many career employees have expressed deep concerns about the new administrator, Scott Pruitt, who repeatedly challenged the agency’s legal authority to regulate certain pollutants during his terms as attorney general of Oklahoma.

Whatever the case, the EPA quickly issued a correction Thursday morning, saying an internal draft of the news release was accidentally sent out with Carper’s quote.

‘‘We apologize for the error and are making sure that our process is improved as we build our team,’’ an EPA spokesman told Politico.

The EPA also included Capito’s actual statement, which lauded Trump’s climate moves. It read, in part: ‘‘President Trump kept his promise to roll back one of the most harmful acts of overreach by the Obama administration - the so-called Clean Power Plan. If fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan would have completely decimated West Virginia’s vital coal industry while having no meaningful climate impact.’’

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Trump thanked Capito by name when he signed his executive order at EPA headquarters on Tuesday. The order seeks to erase President Barack Obama’s climate legacy by paring back rules on carbon emissions, lifting a moratorium on federal coal leases and eliminating requirements that federal officials consider climate change impact when making regulatory decisions, as The Washington Post has reported.

Carper’s office told The Hill Thursday that the senator didn’t mind having his quote included in the EPA’s news release.

‘‘Sen. Carper is happy to lend his words to a good cause,’’ his spokeswoman said.