“It’s going on 10 years that I’ve been working with Superfund and we’ve never seen this level of communication and progress since Administrator Pruitt came in,” said Jackie Young, head of the Texas Health and Environment Alliance and a fierce advocate for the San Jacinto Waste Pit site outside Houston.
“It’s ironic, but the Trump administration does seem to be making Superfund its quote-unquote environmental focus,” said Lee Ann Smith, leading citizen crusader at the CTS site in Asheville, North Carolina, adding, “I’m hopeful.”
On Superfund, said Larry Davis, who fights for the East Chicago USS Steel site, “some political appointees seemed to be pushing the envelope.”
Kim Kastens, a Columbia University professor who works with a local nonprofit at the Acton, Mass. site, feels optimistic. “We’re definitely seeing some motion,” she said.
Linda Robles, who lives near the polluted Tucson Airport site, agreed: “They are doing good things. I have no complaints.”
Worley-Jenkins’ victory came in 2019, when Minden, W.Va. was added to the National Priorities List, the roll call of Superfund’s worst sites—a critical step toward getting cleaned up.
Despite her unprecedented access, however, Gibbs said no mainstream environmental organizations are interested in her “big, creepy” quarterly meetings. Maligned by the administration and opposed to nearly every other thing this EPA has done, the green groups aren’t about to focus on a Trump priority.
“Nobody from any of these environmental groups wants to attend,” Gibbs said. “Nobody has asked.” And several of her donors, “who are progressive people with money,” have made “remarks” about her closeness to the administration.
In May of 2018, Democrats in the House targeted Kelly, too. Facing an ethics investigation into his banking days, he resigned. “I cried when Kell left, I tell you,” Chapman said. She and another activist “sat in her living room and sobbed. We felt like we had lost a true ally.”