Later today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) will grill the latest climate denier to be offered a job in the Trump Administration.
Scott Pruitt, the current Oklahoma Attorney General and long-term critic of the US Environmental Protection Agency, stands to become the Head of the EPA.
Trump’s intention’s are brutally clear. Pruitt has spent a large part of the last few years attacking the EPA’s attempts to regulate air and water pollution.
He has sued the Agency at least fourteen times, arguing it cannot regulate toxic mercury pollution, as well as soot, carbon emissions from power plants, clean air standards for the oil and gas industry and the quality of America’s waterways, amongst others.
Research by the environmental group, EDF has revealed that “in every suit except one, at least one of Pruitt’s co-litigators contributed to Pruitt’s campaign or a political action committee affiliated with Pruitt – directly, or via an employee or member.”
This is dirty cronyism. Pruitt has taken hundreds of thousands from the oil and gas industry. If elected he could sit down with the industries that have been funding him and agree a bonfire of regulations to suit the rich, powerful polluters.
It’s not so much the fox guarding the hen house, as much as the fox being handed Kentucky Fried Chicken on a plate to devour at will and as fast as possible. Soon there will only be the bones of the EPA left.
In any other jurisdiction this would not be allowed to happen. In Trump’s Kleptocracy Cabinet, full of millionaires and billionaires, this means that the rich can rip up the regulations that keep the poor safe breathing clean air and water. It is as perverse as it gets.
“The fact is, he has not stood up for the people of Oklahoma that have to breathe the air and drink the water,” Mark Derichsweiler, who worked for the state’s Department of Environmental Quality for four decades, told the Washington Post. “He’s been on the side of the big polluters and the energy conglomerates.”
Moreover, Pruitt, like Rex Tillerson, also believes that the science of climate change is “far from settled.” This is a man who should be sent back to high school to learn basic biology and chemistry, not be in charge of a Federal Agency.
As well as the hearings talking about climate change today you will also hear about mercury.
As the New Republic explains:“Opposing mercury pollution is a no-brainer. Its harms include serious damage to the nervous, pulmonary, digestive, and immune systems and developmental brain defects. In 2011, after years of study, the EPA limited how much mercury oil-fired and coal-fired power plants can emit.”
It continues: “The agency’s Mercury and Toxic Air Standards (MATS) will save thousands of lives and prevent an estimated 11,000 premature births a year. Great, right? Not according to Pruitt, who joined more than 20 states in suing to block the rule—an appeal that was ultimately declined by the Supreme Court last summer, leaving the rule in place.”
Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the Democrats’ ranking member on the EPW Committee, plans to raise the issue of mercury. “Scott Pruitt’s views are so far out of the mainstream that confirming him as the head of the EPA would be a mistake,” Carper told the New Republic.
The charade today will include Pruitt being interrogated by the chair of the Committee, himself a climate denier. Other Republicans on the committee are also climate deniers and are pro-Pruitt.
The only searching questioning will come from the Democrats, who according to the New York Times, “include some of the Senate’s strongest supporters of the E.P.A. and most forceful voices for decisive action on climate change.”
Now environmentalists are also fighting back with a campaign to try and block his confirmation. A hashtag #PollutingPruitt is active on social media.
Whereas environmental groups have also made a video attacking Pruitt, the oil industry and its allies have been pouring millions into a lobbying campaign to make sure he gets the job.
Senate Democrats will also raise the issue of Pruitt’s oil industry funding. “We should not have a fossil fuel puppet in the office directing the EPA,” argues Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon.