Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Is this who you want to protect the nation's environment?

Scott Pruitt testifying today at EPA confirmation hearing

In an op-ed piece in the NY Times today, Eric Schaeffer writes:

The president-elect’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency is the antithesis of what the nation should expect in the next administrator of the agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma has built his career suing the agency he would oversee to roll back its protection of the nation’s air and water, and challenging the very idea of federal action to control pollution.

At the same time, while Mr. Pruitt preaches the gospel of states’ rights, his record suggests he has been far from aggressive in enforcing environmental laws in his own state. Given his anti-regulatory mind-set, skepticism about global warming and support from the industries he would regulate, the Senate, which is set to begin to consider his nomination on Wednesday, should reject him.

His tenure in Oklahoma is instructive. Mr. Pruitt disbanded the environmental protection unit in the attorney general’s office and created a “federalism unit” to litigate against “overreach by the federal government.” Much of that overreach, in Mr. Pruitt’s view, was by the E.P.A.

A spokesman for Mr. Pruitt told The New York Times recently that environmental “bad actors” were still being held accountable by his office. But the paper noted that many of the actions cited by his office were initiated by his predecessor. And The Times reported that Mark Derichsweiler, a state environmental official who oversaw a major water pollution case, retired in 2015 because, in his own words, he was frustrated with Mr. Pruitt’s approach of standing up for business “at the expense of people who have to drink the water or breathe the air.”

Whatever Mr. Pruitt has done to actually protect the environment, he certainly hasn’t bragged about it. During his six-year tenure, his office issued more than 700 news releases announcing enforcement actions, speeches and public appearances, and challenges to federal regulations. My organization could not find any describing actions by Mr. Pruitt to enforce environmental laws or penalize polluters.

By contrast, more than 50 of those news releases promoted his efforts to sue the E.P.A. and challenge its authority. Among the examples: “Pruitt to Testify Before Congress on E.P.A. Abuses,” “Pruitt and Republican Governors Association Challenge Destructive Regulations on Hydraulic Fracturing,” “Pruitt to Appeal E.P.A. Decision on Regional Haze Rule.”

Read the full piece here

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