Scott Pruitt and the slow death of the EPA

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Graphic by Jessica Wade

Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

Scott Pruitt, before becoming the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was an Oklahoma attorney general fiercely opposed to former President Barack Obama’s climate change policies. So, it comes with little surprise that the man appointed to lead the EPA seems to have very little interest in protecting the environment, but the disregard Pruitt has for the agency is disheartening.

Pruitt spoke Oct. 17 of plans to rid the agency’s scientific advisory boards of researchers who receive EPA grants, claiming that the guidelines raise questions about their independence and ability to remain objective.

“What’s most important at the agency is to have scientific advisers that are objective, independent- minded, providing transparent recommendations,” Pruitt said at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “If we have individuals who are on those boards, sometimes receiving money from the agency … that to me causes questions on the independence and the veracity and the transparency of those recommendations that are coming our way.”

An interesting angle to take for a man whose state’s large oil and gas industry donated more than $360,000 to his political campaigns, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. It is difficult to believe that Pruitt himself can practice objectivity as a leader of a group he’s fought against for so long.

While serving as Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt sued 14 times to stop clean air and water safeguards proposed by the EPA. New research shows that in 13 of the 14 suits, at least one of Pruitt’s co-litigators (others who jumped on board the lawsuit train) contributed to Pruitt’s campaign or a political action committee affiliated with Pruitt. Here are just a few of the suits:

National public health standards for smog pollution. Pruitt sued to contest the EPA’s latest update to its national standard for smog pollution. This decision is definitely not in the best interest of Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, where the American Lung Association report gave all surveyed Oklahoma counties an “F” for ozone problems.

Clean air standards for oil and gas pollution. Pruitt sued to oppose EPA’s standards that were set to limit pollution from new, modified and reconstructed oil and gas facilities. This suit may have something to do with Pruitt and his affiliated political action committees receiving campaign donations from Devon Energy, ExxonMobil and Chesapeake Energy.

Clean Water Rule. Pruitt has made multiple moves to dismantle the Clean Water Rule. The Clean Water Rule ensures that waters safeguarded under the Clean Water Act are more specifically defined and that guidelines are in place to determine which waters should be protected.

Pruitt is making a mistake by turning his back on renewable energy sources, which could help not only the planet but also the economy.

“The fact is that more jobs are being generated now by both solar and wind power than by coal mining and use,” said UNO professor and author Bruce Johansen. “Solar and wind processes are becoming competitive with fossil fuels for power generation. We can hope that the market will make Pruitt and Trump irrelevant.”

The EPA was established by Richard Nixon in 1970 with the mission to protect human health and the environment, dismantling it would be a disaster. Within its 46 years of operation, the agency has implemented the Clean Air Act which rid the U.S. of acid rainfall, banned the cancer-causing pesticide DDT and phased out leaded gas, which had caused elevated lead levels in 88 percent of American children. The agency has also made strides in scientific research, helping the world to better understand the causes and implications of climate change.

It is a shame that an agency established to protect the well-being of Americans and the environment is now being run by a man who, for years, has worked to bring it down.

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