By the end of President Donald Trump’s first year in office, more than 700 workers had fled from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mustafa Ali was one of them. And when it comes to criticizing the “fossil fuel agenda” espoused by Trump and Scott Pruitt, the president’s controversial choice to lead the agency, the former EPA official isn’t pulling any punches.

“I left the Environmental Protection Agency because I saw actions that were being moved forward by the Trump administration that I knew would have devastating effects in the communities that I care about,” Ali, the EPA’s former senior adviser for environmental justice and community revitalization, told Mic. “They’re putting people’s lives in danger. They’re going to make more folks sick, and unfortunately more folks are going to die.”

According to Ali, lower-income communities, communities of color and indigenous communities will suffer the most under an EPA helmed by Pruitt.

“If we look at what has happened in Standing Rock in all the pipeline fights, you can see that they’re not giving consideration to the protections not only of water but also of culture in those spaces,” Ali told Mic. “If we look at Flint, Michigan, and understand the investments that need to happen and the protections that need to be put in place, those still haven’t happened to the level that’s necessary. If we look at what’s happening in Puerto Rico after the hurricanes came through and as the rebuilding needs to happen, things have moved much too slowly for someone for who truly cares about what’s happening inside of those communities.”

But it isn’t just the EPA’s reaction to major crises that troubles Ali — it’s also the way he thinks it’s failed to mitigate the deleterious effect industrialization has on lower-income communities and communities of color.

“[Trump and Pruitt] are moving forward with a fossil fuel agenda that has huge impacts — especially in our most vulnerable communities,” Ali said. “For African-American folks, 68% of them live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Over 1 million folks live within a mile of oil and gas facilities. We know that in our country, 125 million people live in areas with unhealthy air. Twenty-five million folks have asthma and 7 million kids suffer from asthma and we know that many of them end up in the emergency room.”

Ali added, “So when we lessen our air protections, we create a greater burden on those young people. More kids will be going to the emergency rooms, and unfortunately more children will lose their lives if these actions are allowed to continue and go forward.”

Ali has three choice words for Trump and Pruitt: Do your job.

“You have a decision to make,” he said of the president and his EPA chief. “Do you value the lives of communities of color? Do you value the lives of low-income communities? And do you value the lives of indigenous populations? And if you say you do... then you’ve got to live up to that. It’s got to be more than just words. It’s got to be actions.”

Mustafa Ali lays it all out in an exclusive op-ed for Mic. Watch it above.

Anthony Smith
Senior writer