Is Washington, D.C., the worst place to work in America for environmental protection?

This might be the best argument against the government shutdown yet — it’s an inconvenient record.

The annual ranking of American states on sustainability was released this week by the NoMa Campus, a small group of young activists dedicated to improving the area’s urban environment. The group, which includes many Northern Virginia college students, established its headquarters in “green” offices at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in D.C. that offer students “a low-carbon, innovative, education focused office space that explores sustainable living and government issues,” according to its mission statement.

The report’s only goal is to tell the nation’s leaders which states are leaders and which are laggards when it comes to reducing carbon pollution. Its methodology focuses on state policies and fiscal policies as well as other environmental variables. You might have heard of its conclusions already: Washington, D.C., is No. 1. New York is No. 2. California comes in third.

In its press release, NoMa Campus also pays tribute to the “Congress where functional democracy is most often tested.” These tough times call for a degree of statesmanship — the legislators who stick it out in Washington won’t be remembered for long, but history will tell us who the staunchest environmental defenders were.

“It is especially illuminating, given all the other issues Congress and federal agencies are dealing with, that the Energy and Environmental Protection Agency has the worst score on efficiency of any other government agency in the country,” the report notes.

The lesson here is clear. The Trump administration, led by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, has been misbegotten on a policy level. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are basically running around trying to enact laws on climate change, carbon emissions and fracking.

Pruitt’s agency is having a tough time even with funding provided by Congress. Democrats in Congress put the brakes on all agencies that seek big budget increases from Trump, including the EPA. Pruitt was given a DoD equivalent pay increase — after he left his first job. Last month, he had to resign over ethics charges.

Congressional Democrats won’t always be agreeable to Trump’s wishes. But it’s the Environmental Protection Agency, and Pruitt in particular, that is an absolute joke in the states — and in the federal building across the street. He repeatedly refused to bend to the demands of California, which was trying to prevent Pruitt’s agency from approving the sale of new oil pipelines in the state.

It’s impossible to calculate what the EPA’s and Pruitt’s transgressions would be had they been handled differently, especially in those Supreme Court cases where they stood so strongly against common sense.

But if we’re going to assess human impact in any way, will it be harder to curb climate change because people like Pruitt are stuck in Washington? Without congressional interference, state environmental leaders will provide much more leadership on many of these issues. That, after all, is the bipartisan consensus.

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