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The Future of the EPA: Scott Pruitt

The Future of the EPA: Scott Pruitt

The Future of the EPA: Scott Pruitt
April 04
22:58 2017

Scott Pruitt is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump. He comes as a controversial pick to what is already a controversial administration. Pruitt is no stranger to the agency, but he is someone who has shown clear philosophical differences with the agency he was appointed to lead.

As attorney general of Oklahoma, he made a name of himself by repeatedly suing the agency, going as far as calling himself “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” He also spurred a coalition among state attorney generals in their legal challenge to the agency’s Clean Power Plan, a Obama-era policy aimed at reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide from electricity power generation. The plan mainly focuses on reducing emissions from coal-burning power plants, as well as increasing the use of renewable energy.

There was clear opposition from the agency at the time of his nomination, with many EPA members fearing what it would mean for the agency’s future. But last week after Trump’s executive order back rolled many key environmental policies, many saw a clear depiction of what is to come.

It seems that this administration’s, and Mr. Pruitt’s, approach is to roll back many of the regulations proposed by the agency, seeing them as an overreach by the federal government leaving little choice for the states to decide what to do. But in a recent interviewhe failed to give Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday any substance when pressed with the facts on the impact of climate change.

Wallace presented Pruitt with a very evident statistic, stating that “the EPA under Obama had set a number of health milestones attainable by 2030.” If the Clean Power Plan happened, he estimated there would be “90,000 fewer asthma attacks, 300,000 fewer missed work and school days and 3,600 fewer premature deaths per year.”  

After this, Wallace asked a very simple question, “Without the Clean Power Plan, how are you going to prevent those terrible things?” Pruitt had no answer, instead repeating that the GOP was going to “roll back regulatory overreach.” And for many this is the main issue, that there seems to be no alternate plan for what is of grave concern for our health.

There has been an intention by this administration to push for “alternate facts” when there is no such thing. Government officials and agencies should not create and manipulate facts to please their own agenda or protect the interest of corporations at the expense of our health.

According to the United Nations’ official panel on climate change, it is 95 percent likely that more than half of the temperature rise since the mid-20th century is due to human activity. In the U.S., there is an eight-year high concern in global warming, according to the latest Gallup poll. In the poll conducted from March 2 to 6, 64 percent of Americans worried a fair amount about global warming, the highest reading since 2008. In addition, 65 percent blame human activity for rising temperatures.

But this seems to be of little concern for Pruitt, even if we take his promise to bring back coal jobs at face value. They are missing a key fact: what has been mainly responsible for the decline of the coal industry are market forces. Natural gas and some forms of renewable energy are cheaper. Even with the rollback of regulations, it is not certain that the coal industry will return, but what is certain is the poisoning of our air and water as a result.

It should be made very clear that economic anxiety felt by people who have seen entire towns disappear due to lack of coal jobs is legitimate. Many of us not living in those towns can’t fully understand the frustration and the unfair idea that they have been painted as the enemy. Because they are not, they are people who are separated from the industry, and this industry is especially poisonous for the people working in those mines.

This criticism is directed to Mr. Pruitt,  whose main focus seems to be dismantling the very agency he was assigned to lead. This seems to be a recurring theme in the Trump administration. What Pruitt needs to remember is that he does not work for the big companies, and that it is not the EPA’s job to be friendly with the fossil fuel industry.

Featured Illustration: Antonio Mercado

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Gabriela Macias

Gabriela Macias

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