Is the EPA in Trouble?

This week I want to address Scott Pruitt, who’s been a controversial nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and was confirmed by the Senate on Friday.

Scott Pruitt at Senate Confirmation Hearing. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom via ZUMA

The former attorney general of Oklahoma was confirmed by the Senate with a 52-46 vote. This came after Democrats held an all-night session to dissuade the vote for Pruitt.

According to Reuters, Pruitt has sued the EPA dozens of times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, accusing the Obama administration for overreaching regulatory boundaries on oil and fossil fuel companies. He has also emphasized his intentions to both political parties that America will give up its position as the leading country to fight climate change. So why is he now in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency?

Scott Pruitt is one of several Republicans who have doubted human impact on the climate. He, along with other Republicans believe that the EPA has overstepped its legal bounds under the Obama administration.

During Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, many environmentalist protested outside, arguing that Pruitt was only interested in the oil and gas industry and would destroy the work the EPA has done.

Mother Jones reported that during Pruitt’s hearing, he acknowledged that global warming is not a “hoax” and that humans have at least some impact on the climate. But he added, “the ability to measure and pursue the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” According to Mother Jones, this is a common line used by Republicans to side step tougher questions regarding to policies on reining in greenhouse gas emissions.

The reality is that the scientific community has been clear on its stance with climate change. That it’s happening, and there are consequences like rising sea levels, droughts, and increased wildfires.

During the hearing, Pruitt repeatedly insisted that his job would simply carry out the intent of Congress, and that his “personal opinion is immaterial” when it comes to climate science. Mother Jones reports, “what he didn’t mention, is that the EPA administrator is mandated by Congress to evaluate the best-available science and implement regulations based on what is needed to protect public health.”

Throughout his confirmation hearing, Pruitt seemed to contradict his record as Oklahoma attorney general and was unaware or confused when it came to public safety on hazardous gases and materials.

Scott Pruitt at Senate Confirmation Hearing. Credit: Ron Sachs/CNP via ZUMA Wire

Pruitt also has ties to coal, oil and gas interests.  According to Mother Jones, in the past two years both the Center for Media and Democracy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma have requested the release of emails between Pruitt and the fossil fuel interests, but these requests were not fulfilled. Last week, following a lawsuit and a request for additional emails, Pruitt’s office released only 411 of more than 3,000 relevant emails, according to the Center for Media and Democracy. 

On Thursday, the day before Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, the CDM and ACLU were able to get Pruitt’s office to turn over the rest of the 3,000 emails but the deadline was extended till Tuesday. The ruling did little to help Democrats and green groups who were hoping there would be useful information to sway voters. Though it is unlikely that there would be any red flags in the emails, Democrats pushed for the vote to be delayed until after the release of the emails, which was denied by a majority vote. Mother Jones reported, that Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) was asked during a press conference,why he didn’t postpone the vote until Pruitt’s emails were released the senator answered,”Because I choose not to,”.

EPA staffers have also showed their concern for their new boss. During this week, nearly 800 employees signed a letter urging senators to vote against Pruitt.

Since Pruitt has been approved by the Senate, President Donald Trump is expected to sign between two to five executive orders as soon as next week. The executive orders are expected to target the EPA’s Obama-era regulations and begin to cripple the EPA’s work on climate change.

For more information:

Huffington Post: Scott Pruitt Confirmed As EPA Chief Despite New Firestorm

Mother Jones: Senate Confirms Trump’s Controversial EPA Pick – Without Reading His Emails

Scott Pruitt vs. Science

Washington Post: Scott Pruitt, Longtime Adversary of EPA, Confirmed to Lead the Agency


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