FEATURED IMAGE: thepridela.com
President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, to head up the EPA has, understandably, caused quite a stir. Pruitt is one more among a long line of highly contentious cabinet appointments who have a history of disdain for the very departments they have been selected to run.
Since the election, the progressive community has been sounding the alarm at Trump’s every turn; Pruitt is no exception. Vocal liberal leaders have taken up arms, speaking out on social media and launching petitions to thwart Pruitt’s confirmation.
Incoming minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), represents the majority of the democratic community’s views when he describes what he sees as Pruitt’s “reluctance to accept the facts or science on climate change” and his “troubling history of advocating on behalf of big oil at the expense of public health.”
Bernie Sanders has, too, made his stance very clear, denouncing Pruitt on his website, remarking that “…it is sad and dangerous that Mr. Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. Mr. Pruitt’s record is not only that of being a climate change denier, but also someone who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent, not less, on fossil fuels.”
Their concerns are thoroughly founded. Pruitt has written that the debate on climate change is “far from settled,” despite NASA’s claim that “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” Most leading scientific organizations around the world concur, notably among them, in the U.S., AAAS, American Chemical Society, American Medical Association, and American Meteorological Society.
The UN, an intrinsically moderate organization, even clearly states on its website that “the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are driving climate change and continue to rise.” Concurrence on this topic at the UN extends back at least to 1990, when, in the IPCC’s first assessment report, it was concluded that human activities were resulting in an average warming of the Earth’s surface.
Even Republican administrators of the EPA since the 80s have accepted the science behind climate change.
As head of the EPA, this would make Pruitt perhaps one of the only leading international voices in the environmental world who still didn’t believe in climate change, presenting a conflict for the EPA as an organization. “National efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information” is listed second in a set of bullets comprising the EPA’s stated mission and purpose on its website. Given his current stance on the prevailing science of climate change, Pruitt already disqualifies himself for the job, his beliefs being at odds with this most basic of the EPA’s tenets.
Having proven he is willing to propagate unscientific beliefs, it is unlikely he would uphold the EPA’s fifth stated purpose, either, which intends for the EPA to ensure that “all parts of society… have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks.”
A notorious critic of the EPA, Pruitt certainly walks the walk, having recently joined a coalition of state attorneys general to sue the EPA in 2015 over Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The EPA has stated that the Clean Power plan will “help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels,” a monumental achievement for mitigating climate change. This would accrue an estimated “$55 billion to $93 billion” in “public health and climate benefits” by 2030, “including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.”
The first purpose the EPA holds itself to is ensuring that “all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work.” Pruitt’s suit stands in direct opposition to this declaration, given the enormous quantitative and qualitative public health benefits derived from the Clean Power Plan.
In August of 2016, he also sued over a new 2016 rule that would diminish emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with 86 times the warming potential of CO2 over 20 years, from the oil and natural gas industries. Given his unbending hostility towards these forward-thinking regulations, it is unlikely he would ensure that “the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment,” the last of the EPA’s stated purposes. If history sets any precedent, it would seem his primary goal as head of the EPA would not be to set an example for the world as a leader, but rather to evidence how easily U.S. politics bend to the will and whims of the fossil fuel industry.
It is also questionable whether or not he’d be able to ensure that “federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively,” third in the list of the EPA’s purposes. In 2014, the New York Times published extensive evidence of an “unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republic attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda.”
As part of this collaboration, a three-page letter was written to the EPA accusing them of overestimating air pollution associated with natural gas drilling in Oklahoma. It was revealed thereafter in the Times that the letter was “written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to [Pruitt] by Devon’s chief of lobbying.”
Pruitt is also one among attorneys general in more than a dozen states receiving record amounts of money for political campaigns, which includes at least $16 million this year. He alone has received $318,496 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry since 2002, accounting for about 14% of his total fundraising for his 2014 reelection.
It’s hardly a stretch to presume it would be extremely difficult for someone in bed this deep with the fossil fuel industry to “fairly and effectively” enforce federal environmental laws that run directly counter to that same industry’s financial interests.
It’s also worth noting the fact that Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma is ranked “fifth in the nation in onshore crude oil output in 2014” and is “home to the giant Cushing oil storage and trading hub, where the benchmark West Texas Intermediate grade is set every day.” Recently, horizontal fracking has boosted output of natural gas production despite the fact that “production sagged in the 1990s and early 2000s.”
The role that fossil fuel production plays in Oklahoma’s economy has clearly not escaped Pruitt, a man who shows no reservations in demonstrating where his loyalties lie. He boasts on his LinkedIn page that he’s “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” which comes as no surprise.
All in all, Scott Pruitt’s words and actions situate him wholly in opposition to five of the EPA’s seven stated purposes. Surely, because of his staunch support of a mere subset of our nation’s economic interests, the only two of the EPA’s purposes he could hope to uphold are the fourth and sixth, those that concern “natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation,” with the requirement that “these factors are similarly considered [alongside environmental protection] in establishing environmental policy.” Pruitt would only regulate for environmental protections insofar as they contributed to “making our communities… economically productive.”
If confirmed, Pruitt would be one of the most internally antagonistic leaders of the EPA since its inception. Congress can’t, in good conscience, confirm this man.