Pruitt bad choice to Lead EPA
When Donald Trump won the presidency, I was under no illusion that he would be a champion of the environment. After all, during the campaign, Trump called global warming a “hoax.” And just this week, the president-elect said that “nobody really knows” if climate change is real.
Despite this troubling denial of proven science, I hoped Trump would appoint a leader at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who had a solid record of environmental protection.
That’s what previous Republican Presidents have done – nominate administrators with proven environmental records. President Nixon tapped Russell Train, a founder and chairman of the World Wildlife Fund, to serve as the second EPA administrator. The first President Bush selected William Reilly, the World Wildlife Fund’s president, to lead the agency, while the second President Bush nominated New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
Trump instead ignored this playbook entirely. By nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator, the president-elect is attempting to hand the EPA over to an anti-science politician who has repeatedly filed lawsuits against the very agency he is now being nominated to lead.
Pruitt has either initiated or joined lawsuits against the EPA in opposition to the Clean Power Plan, federal rules combating cross-state air pollution and rules protecting the public from mercury and other air toxins. He also led opposition to the Clean Water Rule that defines which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. The rule would provide certainty to landowners and important safeguards for our nation’s wetlands, streams, and fish and wildlife habitat.
I’m troubled by Pruitt’s record of working hand-in-hand with the fossil fuel industry to undermine common sense clean air and clean water protections. The relationship is so cozy that Pruitt has turned over the drafting of official letters to oil and gas interests. According to the New York Times, Pruitt signed official letters to EPA that were written by energy sector lobbyists.
Pruitt also failed to take action against oil and gas development companies in Oklahoma to protect the people of his state from fracking-induced earthquake damage. Last year, the state experienced more than 800 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher, a dramatic jump from about 40 in 2010. This dramatic increase has been connected to fracking activity in the state, and yet Pruitt has refused to act.
Pruitt’s close ties with oil and gas interests calls into question his ability or desire to make balanced decisions when it comes to addressing climate change. He simply cannot effectively lead the EPA when he doesn’t believe in its mission of protecting the American people and our environment from harmful pollution, contaminated water, hazardous waste and the impacts of climate change.
This nomination is part of an apparent pattern by the president-elect and his transition team to only listen to the voices of climate change deniers. Earlier this month, the transition team asked Energy Department officials to identify employees and contractors who have taken part in international climate talks. I’m concerned that these efforts may be an attempt to apply an ideological ‘litmus test’ to career civil servants and to single out employees whose views on climate change may differ from the incoming Trump administration.
We cannot afford to reverse course on combating climate change and transforming our energy economy. It’s unfortunate that Pruitt views environmental protection as the enemy of economic prosperity. It’s not. A clean, healthy environment remains essential to growing our economy for all Americans. We should be investing in newer and cleaner energy infrastructure that will reduce the impact of climate change, create good-paying jobs and lower energy costs for consumers.
We must find common ground on environmental issues in order to protect Americans’ fundamental right to clean air, clean water and a safe environment. By that measure, Pruitt is the wrong choice to lead EPA. He’s proven to be a fringe, anti-government activist and science denier who will likely go to extremes to undermine the mission of the agency he’s being nominated to run. His nomination should be rejected.
Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) serves as the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.