Mustafa Ali: Meet the Top EPA Environmental Justice Official Who Quit to Protest Pruitt & Trump


AMY GOODMAN: The Environmental Protection
Agency has been overwhelmed by angry calls in recent days after the agency’s new head,
Scott Pruitt, said carbon dioxide emissions are not a major contributor to global warming. Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma,
made the comment during an interview with CNBC host Joe Kernen. JOE KERNEN: Do you believe that it’s been
proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate? Do you believe that? SCOTT PRUITT: No, I––No, I think that
measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging
to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary
contributor to the global warming that we see. JOE KERNEN: OK. All right–– SCOTT PRUITT: But we don’t know that yet,
as far as—we need to continue debate and continue the review and the analysis. AMY GOODMAN: That was Scott Pruitt, the head
of the EPA, speaking with CNBC host Joe Kernen. Well, Pruitt’s comment defies scientific
consensus about the laws of physics. The EPA’s own website, even in the time
of Trump, features a fact sheet declaring, “Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around
Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm,” unquote. Well, on Friday, one day after Pruitt made
the comment, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, revealed that the level
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen at a record pace for a second year in row. Meanwhile, President Trump is proposing to
cut 25 percent from the EPA’s budget and eliminate 3,000 jobs. Trump’s plan calls for the complete elimination
of EPA programs on climate change, toxic waste cleanup, environmental justice and funding
for Native Alaskan villages. It would slash funding to states for clean
air and water programs by 30 percent. Well, we now turn to a longtime EPA staffer
who resigned last week to protest the agency’s new direction. Mustafa Ali is the former head of the EPA’s
environmental justice program, which worked with low-income and marginalized communities
dealing with industrial pollution and climate change. Ali helped found the office 24 years ago under
President George H.W. Bush. He’s now working with the Hip Hop Caucus. Mustafa Ali, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about why you resigned? MUSTAFA ALI: Oh, yes, and thank you for having
me. There were a number of reasons for resigning. One of them was that I felt that the values
and priorities of our new administration did not line up with mine in relationship to our
vulnerable communities and the work that needed to happen in that space. Secondly, I also had some great concerns about
the rolling back of the budgets and the eliminating of offices that have played a significant
role in helping to move those vulnerable communities forward. And then, thirdly, when I took a look at some
of the proposals for rolling back regulations that have played a significant role in helping
to protect the environment and public health of our most vulnerable communities, I just
couldn’t be a part of that. Those regulations, many of those communities
have been working for decades trying to make sure, one, that they’re in place, two, that
they are more inclusive of protections for their communities and getting traction, being
able to move forward. AMY GOODMAN: The Trump administration has
proposed zeroing out the budget of your office, the environmental justice program. Now, this hasn’t been approved, but this
is the proposal. What exactly, concretely, would that mean? Talk about some of the areas in the country
that you’ve been working on and just what the words and the movement “environmental
justice” is. MUSTAFA ALI: Yes, well, you have to kind of
go back in history just a bit to understand environmental justice. The Office of Environmental Justice, which
became, first, the Office of Environmental Equity, actually got created because of a
set of recommendations that came from stakeholders. Those stakeholders were from grassroots organization. They were from academics. They were from faith-based institutions. And it actually started under William Reilly
back in 1992. And the issues are numerous around the country. You could look at some of the things that
are happening in Port Arthur, Texas, where there are a number of refineries, and the
community is literally surrounded. Or you can look in Mossville, Louisiana, where
communities have been impacted by toxic chemicals that have created some great public health
challenges in those communities. AMY GOODMAN: And these communities you’re
talking about are African-American communities? MUSTAFA ALI: These are communities of color,
African-American communities, Latino communities, Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities,
Native American communities and low-income white communities. AMY GOODMAN: Let me turn to Scott Pruitt’s
recent speech to staff at the EPA when he first came in. SCOTT PRUITT: I believe that we, as an agency,
and we, as a nation, can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment, that we don’t
have to choose between the two. I think our nation has done better than any
nation in the world at making sure that we do the job of protecting our natural resources
and protecting our environment, while also respecting the economic growth and jobs our
nation seeks to have. AMY GOODMAN: Mustafa Ali, your response to,
well, the man who was your boss, but you have since resigned, Scott Pruitt? MUSTAFA ALI: Yes, I believe that we have to
be as equally focused on the impacts that are happening inside of those communities. I personally think that when we are taking
a look at regulations, we could ask a basic question: If we’re thinking about creating
a new regulation, will it be beneficial to our most vulnerable communities? If we’re thinking about rolling back a regulation,
will that be helpful to those most vulnerable communities, or will it move them in a negative
direction? And if that is the case, then I think that
we are making a mistake, that there needs to be a better analysis, that there needs
to be conversations that are happening with those most vulnerable communities and getting
their input as we move forward. I’m often wondering: What are the criteria
that you’re using to make some of the decisions, of some of the proposals that I have seen
being moved forward over the last few weeks? AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about some examples? You were recently in Flint, well known for
the—what happened to the water supply of Flint, the poisoning of an American city,
when it was taken off its traditional water supply by an emergency manager, who the Republican
governor of Michigan had put in to rule that city. An unelected official took it off its traditional
water supply of over half a century, the Detroit water system, and made the water supply the
Flint River, which all knew was a corrosive, polluted body of water. Talk about the significance of the cutting
of the EPA for communities like Flint, and then talk about South Carolina. MUSTAFA ALI: Oh, sure. So, as it relates to Flint, you know, that
is a situation that has just devastated the community, but there is still hope also in
the community. So, recently there with the mayor and some
of her staff and others, focusing on some environmental justice opportunities and how
we can help to revitalize that community, you know, and speaking with many of the folks
who are there. You know, they are still struggling to make
sure that they have fresh water, clean water, something that many of us just take for granted
every day. But there are also—I want to address the
disinvestments that have happened over the years inside of the community, to be able
to move forward, to create a healthier and safer place. So we’re very, very focused on being supportive
there. And, you know, the flip side of that is an
example like Spartanburg, South Carolina, and why also I think it’s so important for
the new administration to value the grant programs that exist in the agency that help
communities to be able to move from surviving to thriving, as I often will frame it. In Spartanburg, South Carolina, they had a
number of the issues that many of our communities have across the country. They had bad transportation routes. They had old housing. Some folks call it shotgun housing. They had lack of access to public health,
to healthcare facilities. They had the environmental impacts of Superfund
and brownfield sites and a number of other issues. They took that $25,000 small grant, began
a visioning process with the community and asked, “What are some of the things that you
would like to see fixed in our community, but also what are some of the opportunities,
some of the benefits, that you’d like to see happen?” Took that $20,000 grant and leveraged it into
over $300 million in changes. So now in that community you now have new
healthcare centers that are there, where, before, seniors had to travel great distances
to be able to get to healthcare. You have new transportation routes that are
in the community, that are much more healthier and less impactful on the community. You have a number of new housing units, over
500 new homes that are there, green homes that are energy-efficient. Now, before, in the summertime, folks were
spending $300 to $400 on their energy costs. Because of this new housing, they’ve been
able to lower it to $67 a month, which gives a lot more disposable income, especially to
those who are on fixed incomes. And as this revitalization was happening,
which was community-driven, they made sure that there were worker training programs in
place, so that the community members, one, were able to create their own jobs to be able
to be—play a significant role and to bring hope back to this community. And there are a number of other things that
are very, very positive that are happening. But these are the examples of what can happen
when we value communities, when we listen to the voice of communities, and we begin
to move forward in a collaborative way. They have now been able to bring the state
and the local government into this process. A number of the community members, of course,
are a part of the process. Business and industry is a part of the process. And as they cleaned up the brownfields and
Superfund sites were being cleaned up, they now are moving forward, having a solar farm
put into those cleaned-up areas, which will now zero out those electricity bills, and
the excess, that can be sold to the grid, will then come back to the communities. So that’s what I talk about when I’m talking
about environmental justice, addressing those past and present impacts and creating opportunities. AMY GOODMAN: So, in our last minute, Mustafa
Ali, you have worked for Republican and Democratic administrations. I mean, your office was founded under President
George H.W. Bush. Why leave now? MUSTAFA ALI: I felt that it was time for me
to take my skills and talents to a place where I knew that they would be valued. But I also felt that it was necessary for
me to stand up and share respectfully, in the letter of my resignation, with the administrator
the challenges that still exist for vulnerable communities, but also the opportunities that
exist, and implore him to do a serious analysis of that and to give consideration into making
sure that these communities are protected and engaged in the process. AMY GOODMAN: Did Scott Pruitt respond your
resignation letter? MUSTAFA ALI: I have not heard from him to
date, but I do wish him well. AMY GOODMAN: Mustafa Ali resigned as head
of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency last week. He is now senior vice president of the Hip
Hop Caucus.

Comments 31

  • DIIIE SCOTT, BEFORE YOU DOOM US ALL.

  • THANKYOU for your EXCELLENT JOURNALISM DEMOCRACY NOW !

  • don't we need more people like Mustafa in the EPA in order to some what mitigate the damage the trump administration will do?

  • I like his beard

  • SMRT people hate science.

  • Scott Pruitt – lower than a cockroach. The man who sold the world. If America chooses people like him in preference to intelligent, articulate and experienced experts like Mustafa Ali then their fate is sealed. And it won't be at all good.

  • Much respect for this man!

  • Another ' black ' fool who thinks his protesting will have any effect, when ' whites ' protest the perceived injustices committed against them in America protestsing does little to help them, and they're ' white ', so what makes a nigra think he'll fare any better.

  • I like Mustafa Ali. he didn't get racist.. he included low income whites. He has the good of the people in mind not the good of corporations.

  • if this guy was doing his job correctly then how did the flint fiasco happen in the first place????? the epa has become the bumboy of industry rather than the watchdog

  • THANK YOU for Democracy Now!!!

  • Cuts have to be made to support all the other liberal programs

  • tHAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN IN fLYNT THAT IS MIKE MOORES HOME .cOULD IT BE HE HAS NOT GIVEN A SHIT ABOUT FLYNT ONCVE THEY MADE HIM RICH .YUP HE IS NO BETTER THAN THE CAR COMPANIES HE RAILED AGAINST

  • OMG this guy is impossible to listen to

  • the swamp, it self drains. maga

  • Narcissistic Totalitarians Are Dysfunctional Consuming Controllers w/out Empathy for Anyone… They Manipulate in the Name of Greed & Corruptions… If We Don't Fight for Clean Air, There'll Be No Place for Clean Air or Water On This Orb… Love Self, Protect Life. Peace.!!!

  • ali is so well spoken. caring and confident.

  • Is Mustafa Ali a "five percenter" otherwise known as Gods and Earths?
    He does not seem racist enough to be. Gods and Earths religion is popular amoung Hip Hop performers. They believe that all black men are God (singular), all black women are "Earths" and all white men are devils. It is common for them to change their names to muslim sounding names.

  • Elegant eloquent and knowledgeable man!¬† Impressive….Could¬†Trump talk like that ever?

  • So good to see Pruitt make sound progress for economicam growth. Now we can get back to strong industry to build a better tomorrow.

  • Good riddance and thank you to Mustafa Ali at the EPA for his resignation. Let him take his dreadlocks back to Berkeley or wherever he's from.

    Democracy Now! is very selective about its choice of scientific data about the environment. There is extensive evidence that we are in a global cooling trend, not a warming trend. I look forward to shutting down the EPA and closing the Department of Environmental Jusice is a a great step in that direction. Democracy Now! has also been selective in it's coverage of calls to the EPA. Many applaud ending the EPA.

    Mustafa Ali and the EPA justice agency were responsible for the sham court prosecution of Joe Robertson, a 78 year old Navy veteran. Robertson built a pond on his own property in Montana, specifically for the purpose of fighting fires. It is notable that wildfires are widespread in Montana due to poor land & forest management by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. So Robertson built a pond to fight those fires, but is now imprisoned specifically for building his pond to fight those fires. And Mustafa and the EPA jailed Robertson for building his pond.

    Good riddance to Mustafa Ali, the monstrous agency he created. I look forward to closing down the EPA entirely.

  • Surprisingly Pruitt admitted there is global warming

  • Why am I the only one watching The Center on Foreign Development's new videos this morning?

  • His position is a waste of tax payer money

    Get a real job

  • Pruitt is a climate denier because he is being paid to do so.

  • Playing a clip from his old boss like that! Too soon! Cruel!

  • resigned in protest or extorted and told to "resign in protest". we need resistors in place or they are going to be replaced with cronies, perhaps its just a job and not how im viewing them having some autonomy

  • Hip Hop Caucus – lmfao!

  • lmao…will you also report that EPA allocated $ 100M for flint water? every time you went to walmart, there were always some kids squirming in the cart "I want the candy. candy."

  • Good Riddance

  • Blown Away!!

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