The Scott Pruitt Dictionary: What to look for in his upcoming testimony

Keith Zukowski

Editor's note: This post was updated Jan. 25, 2018.

Scott Pruitt is well-practiced. When he speaks, he does so by relying on ready-made talking points intended to obfuscate and soften his animosity for the agency he leads.

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, we can expect another dose of Pruitt’s slippery language and clever phrasing. That's when he returns to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about his priorities for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In the past year, Pruitt has waged a full-fledged and unprecedented assault on the EPA and the critical public health and environmental safeguards it provides – though you’d never know it from what he says.

Here are a few key entries from the Pruitt Dictionary to help you navigate the EPA chief’s congressional testimony.

“Back to Basics”

This phrase is Pruitt’s bread and butter. Indeed, the “basic” function of the EPA is to protect people and the environment

Except, under Pruitt the agency faces deep potential budget cuts that would cripple its ability to do just that. Programs that keep our air and water clean, clean up toxic waste sites, and prosecute polluters are all on the chopping block in his budget proposals, which are now being considered by Congress.

Those are the basics and Pruitt is looking to hamper the agency’s ability to deliver them. He just won’t say so.

“We can do both”

Here, Pruitt claims that we can grow jobs while serving as good stewards of the environment, and he’s right.

Expert economists and environmentalists across party lines agree we can grow the economy while serving as good stewards of the environment – that “we can do both,” in other words.

However, Pruitt likes to act as though this is a novel idea and he uses the rhetoric frequently – while ignoring the fact that our economy is already trending toward "doing both."

The two fastest-growing occupations in America today are solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians – parts of a booming renewable energy industry that shows no sign of slowing down. Leading brands such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Walmart have committed to growing their sustainability efforts, all while making massive profits.

Of course, when Pruitt is talking about “doing both,” he’s referring to coal jobs which he claims he’s bringing back at record numbers. The truth is, coal jobs have declined 60 percent since 1980, and evidence suggests that coal's share of our energy mix will continue to decline.

“Red team/Blue team”

The EPA chief continues to advocate for a “red team/blue team” exercise that would pit climate scientists against people seeking to debunk the established science. But the exercise is a reality show designed to confuse the public.

Credible scientists would be peppered with questions from fringe theorists. Facts confirmed by thousands of experts based on decades of evidence will be put up against what amounts to conspiracy theories from the dark corners of the internet.

It would be laughable to knowledgeable experts, but the millions who don't have expertise will be left confused. And that's Pruitt's real goal.


Pruitt’s disdain for legitimate professionals and experts is apparent and it’s doing serious damage to the EPA. A recent fiat prohibited individuals receiving research funding from the agency from serving on its Science Advisory Board.

In Pruitt’s dictionary, a “bureaucrat” is someone who bases his or her ideas on sound science and reason.

Career EPA professionals are regularly ignored as Pruitt questions the validity of his own experts. Instead, he spends his time meeting with industry executives, often implementing favorable rulings to cozy companies shortly after talks.

He’s also stacked his administration with an all-star team of polluters and industry insiders. Ex-chemical lobbyists, climate change deniers, and dirty energy allies have infiltrated the EPA at its highest ranks or await confirmation by the Senate.

“Power to the states”

Pruitt fashions himself a federalist, arguing that states know their problems best.

And yet he’s moved to gut funding that allows states to allocate federal money to fix their most pressing problems. What’s more, states cannot control nor regulate the pollution that crosses state lines, leaving some states to clean up for bad actors in other states.

Except, Congress gave the EPA the responsibility to keep our air, water and land clean. If the agency doesn't, it's ignoring the law.

When Pruitt says “power to the states,” he's really telling states that their taxpayers are on the hook to pay for compliance measures. If a state chooses not to comply, the burden will be placed on the sick.

That would be children, the elderly and at-risk communities that rely on public health protections to keep them safe. Hardly what Congress intended when it empowered the EPA nearly half a century ago.


How long are the Republicans going to throw taxpayers under the bus. I don’t recognize a party that is willing to put corporate greed before the health and welfare of the voters and who disregards the environment and the fragility of our world. Don’t look for my support in 2018 unless you Republicans start remembering the people who elected you to support them.

Carolyn Yost
December 5, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Thank you for your thoughts. You’re right on about throwing not just the people under the bus, but the whole world. This is the only place we have to raise our young, and they don’t seem to give a damn, it’s all about money. Thank you for speaking up.

Asthma breather
January 31, 2018 at 1:53 pm

In reply to by Carolyn Yost

The only problem I see with your comment, is that it supposes that the Republicans are suddenly going to become eco-friendly and put voters before corporate interests... before November.

I assure you that, even if they did, that change of rhetoric wouldn't last to January!

Randall Fritz
April 26, 2018 at 1:46 pm

In reply to by Carolyn Yost

Our entire democracy is going to die because of the greed of the GOP. EPA holds back polluters by cost effectiveness. Without any subsidized healthcare, insurance companies will kill the elderly, children and poor. Leaving only the healthy to pay for overpriced, useless, policies. The selling off of OUR national parks and monuments for mining and drilling, when it’s already been shown renewables have surpassed fossils and are cheaper per kilowatt, is totally unacceptable. Future generations should ask why and demand reparations from any and every person who allowed this corrupt regime to come to power or to even exist.

Jeffrey R Lowrie
December 6, 2017 at 8:56 am

This jerk is just so pathetic! He's already screwed over Oklahoma as its former Attorney General, actually sueing the EPA in favor of Big Ag overloading local watersheds, providing drinking water and the locally important recreation $$. But he's just another science denying buffoon, along with his "Science Advisor" and NASA Director (among others).

Mike Scharrer
December 6, 2017 at 11:44 pm

(Disclaimer: I need to sleep at night, and to make it through my days with a minimum of existential despair. So I'm making a conscious effort to believe this incredibly dark period will pass, and that America will once again return to its senses.)

On the supposition that:
-the 'pendulum of chaos and madness' will once again swing away from the rabid right,
-that 2018 will see many elections reinstate Dems and even some progressive independents,
-that impeachments and indictments will create a lame-duck presidency while grinding through a longer legal process, and
-that sooner rather than later sanity and humanity will regain control of the government.....

What are the prospects and processes for reversing the damages? Does overwhelming evidence of Russian electoral manipulation invalidate the 2016 election?
Does overwhelming evidence of collusion and obstruction of justice across the entire administration and GOP leadership enable not only multiple indictments but reversals of appointments?
Are appointments made by an illegitimate government themselves illegitimate?
Does this extend to the judicial appointments, including Supreme Court?

This is like a metastasized condition. The infection is systemic. But I think with a lot of surgery we might still be able to chase down and cut out the rot before the patient, America, dies.

Recovery will likely be slow and painful.

Erik vL
December 7, 2017 at 10:12 am

Dear Carolyn, It’s obvious that you are a Republican, and there is nothing wrong with that. The big mistake is the thinking of [our Senate and House members]. They are old hat and old bones in the closet. Sen. McConnell for one, and the greed of Trump, that came into office with a hidden agenda, and that is to line his pockets and who ever is willing to perform this hoax and dupe the people he’s suppose to represent.

Lets take the time to read between the lines. It’s so very obvious what is occurring here. If we do not act now as a whole nation to eliminate Trump and his cronies and family our of the White House I am sorry to say there will be an astronomical price we will have to pay to rectify the damage.

PLEASE I implore you and everyone who takes the time to look at Trump’s minions [whom] he has put in critical positions where they do not belong. Scott Pruitt is one to speak of. Just imagine the type of harm he can do, not to mention the rest of the miscreants he has hired.

Once again put your preferred party aside for a moment and think about your loved ones and the WORLD. These are perilous times. We have to take action now and demand expulsion of Trump and Company. If you love life as I do it must be done and then the voters must clean house. I thank you from my heart and pray for a better day.

Dwight Clark
February 27, 2018 at 11:29 am

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