Columnists across the political spectrum have been calling President Trump names – questioning his discipline, knowledge and focus. No one can say the same things about Scott Pruitt.
Indeed, as we approach Pruitt’s 100th day as leader of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s clear that he is nothing like the president. And that, ironically, makes him even worse for our health and environment.
Scott Pruitt is highly disciplined, skillful and focused – and obsessed with his mission of advocating for big polluters and undermining the EPA’s historic role of protecting public health. Now that he’s in charge of the agency, he’s methodically pushing to gut rules that limit pollution, hobble enforcement of clean air and water laws, and shove aside unbiased scientific guidance.
In contrast to the often-dysfunctional White House, Pruitt has been laser focused. In his first 100 days, he has:
- begun the process of abandoning the Clean Power Plan, America’s only national limits on carbon pollution from our largest source. This will allow the power plants to emit unlimited amounts of this pollution – leading to more asthma attacks and a more dangerous future for our children.
- taken aim at the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, which reduces dangerous neurotoxins that harm children’s brain development. Pruitt is opposing it even though virtually all power plants in the country now comply with the rule, demonstrating that none of the fear-mongering about cost and reliability problems we heard from industry were true.
- actively been lobbying the White House to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a move that would hurt our economy and cede American leadership to China and Europe. We would join only two other countries in the world – Nicaragua and Syria – on the outside of this global system, potentially inviting tariffs on our exports. In true Alice in Wonderland fashion, the EPA administrator is reportedly lobbying the coal industry to support withdrawal from the climate agreement.
- appeared to be trying to shut out neutral scientific advice. He’s declined to reappoint half of a scientific advisory board, with some reports indicating he may choose more industry-friendly advisors instead. On his watch, the EPA has removed key pollution and climate data from its web site. Pruitt also claimed on CNBC that carbon dioxide is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see” – flatly contradicting the scientists at NASA, every major American scientific organization and his own agency.
- paved the way for the Trump administration’s call for a 31-percent cut to the EPA budget – more than what any other federal agency faces. If enacted, it would dramatically reduce protections against pollutants such as mercury, lead, smog, and carbon pollution; undermine enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts; and reduce cleanup of toxic waste sites. It will result in more asthma attacks for kids, more health problems for elderly Americans, accelerated climate change and more pollution in our lives.
- slowly been stocking his agency with appointees with serious conflicts of interest. A few examples: Nancy Beck moved from the chemical industry’s main lobbying organization to be the highest political appointee at the EPA office overseeing the chemical industry. Justin Schwab, now a top lawyer at the EPA, previously represented a coal utility. Christian Palich, a lobbyist for a coal industry group, was appointed to a senior position in the EPA’s Congressional relations office.
The fact is, the EPA has saved countless lives and made America dramatically cleaner and healthier by sticking to sound science, seeking smart solutions to limit pollution, and enforcing the law. In his first 100 days, Scott Pruitt has turned the agency’s mission on its head.
Estimates suggest that if he is able to fully enact his agenda, about 130,000 Americans will die prematurely due to air, water and toxic pollution. So while America will survive Scott Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA, we know that many Americans won’t.