Sustainability professionals held out hope that the Trump administration wouldn’t be as bad for the planet as the campaign rhetoric promised. Unfortunately, the President-elect’s selection of Scott Pruitt, renowned climate change denier, for EPA head points to a grim and dirty future.
The verdict was still out about the Trump administration’s stance on climate change and environmental protection. Trump told the New York Times in a recent interview that he was keeping an “open mind” to the Paris Agreement. He affirmed his belief that clean air and water are essential to maintaining our quality of life. He even met with Al Gore earlier this week to discuss the topic of climate action.
But, any hope of a reasonable environmental stance was shattered when Trump announced his selection of Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt, Oklahoma’s conservative attorney general, has been a long-term ally of the fossil fuel industry as well as an outspoken supporter of the systematic dismantling of the EPA and Obama’s climate action initiatives.
Pruitt has been a key architect in the fight against Obama’s regulations on air emissions, water pollution, and endangered species, going as far as creating a “federalism unit” within his office to coordinate organized, multi-state oppositional efforts.
His primary target has been the Clean Power Plan—which would require power plants to substantially reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, claiming that the plan represents an outright “war on coal” (clearly failing to appropriately recognize that coal’s demise has little to do with federal policy and everything to do with open market forces and cheap natural gas prices.) He has been instrumental in forming a group of attorneys general from 28 states, fossil fuel behemoths, and energy lobbyists to wage a legal battle against the Clean Power Plan.
A New York Times investigation accuses Pruitt of creating an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with some of the nation’s top energy producers and fossil fuel companies to push back against Obama’s regulatory agenda. He jointly filed an antiregulatory lawsuit with fossil fuel interests like Oklahoma Gas and Electric and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, a nonprofit comprised of major fossil fuel companies, all the while taking campaign contributions from many of these organizations. He placed ghostwritten letters—authored by representatives from the fossil fuel companies themselves or their lobbyists—on government stationary and sent them to the White House, EPA and other government agencies, and he purportedly engaged in shady acts like shutting down investigations and changing policies in order to satisfy his allies and donors.
Pruitt ardently supports Trump’s campaign promise to “cancel” the Paris Agreement, and he outspokenly rejects the mountain of science that connects climate change with human activity.
Some avow that Pruitt is the most openly hostile and dangerous EPA administrator since the agency’s history when it comes to protecting the environment.
Not surprisingly, executives from the fossil fuel industry were thrilled at Pruitt’s selection. Environmental advocates were dismayed, but quickly committed to digging in even further to engage in what will undoubtedly be a long, hard-fought battle to prevent the total thrashing of climate policy and initiatives. And some members of Congress, including Bernie Sanders, have committed to vehemently oppose Pruitt’s nomination.
Who knows, if protestors can convince the Army Corps of Engineers to change the route of the Dakota Pipeline, then perhaps we can stand up against the total dismantling of the EPA, the eradication of the Clean Power Plan, and the wholly irresponsible disregard of appropriate regulation to protect our precious—and vulnerable—planet.
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