Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt’s obfuscation is designed to kill the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt’s decision to kill the Plan jeopardizes American lives and compromises their health. Pruitt’s subterfuge ignores the fact that the EPA was created in 1970 to focus specifically on the environment and human health.
Prior to becoming EPA administrator Pruitt had amassed a long track record as a climate denier and fossil fuel advocate. As revealed by his emails and his calendar Pruitt’s agenda is diametrically opposed to the EPA’s mandate. When he was the Attorney General for Oklahoma Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times and disbanded the state’s Environmental Protection Unit. The fact that he has received more than a quarter of a million dollars from the fossil fuel industry to support his political career is a matter of public record.
Pruitt has made no secret of his efforts to decimate environmental action in the US. His boss has declared war on the EPA and this includes efforts to slash the agency’s budget. Very early in the new year Republican legislators tried to kill the EPA outright. In addition to suspending air pollution safeguards, Pruitt encouraged Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and he eradicated pollution detection for fossil fuel facilities. He is working to allow potentially harmful chemicals to be used by industry without normal reviews and Pruitt has worked alongside Republican legislators to kill emissions standards for cars and light trucks.
While Republicans love to focus on Hilary Clinton’s emails they are silent about the fact that Pruitt is being investigated for using his private email for state business as attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt spent more than $58,000 of taxpayers money on air travel using military charters and almost $25,000 to soundproof his office. However, his most egregious crime to date are the millions of lives he is imperiling with his decision to kill the Clean Power Plan. On October 10th 2017 Pruitt signed a proposal to repeal the rule.
The Clean Power Plan limits carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants by forcing the retirement of around 50,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity. The plan is flexible and gives states a number of options to achieve the mandated 32 percent cuts in CO2 emissions by 2030. This both combats climate change and provides cleaner air for 166 million Americans who breathe polluted air. If implemented the Plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks. It will also benefit productivity by resulting in 300,000 fewer missed days in school and work.
Pruitt argues that the rule costs jobs, however, the plan has yet to be implemented and market forces are killing the coal industry. Perhaps most importantly Pruitt’s math does not factor the healthcare costs of killing the plan. Nor does he factor the impact on jobs in the clean energy sector. Pruitt’s math simply ignores the facts to make it easier for him to undo rules that regulate the fossil fuel industry.
Pruitt and some states argue that the Clean Power Plan, “exceeds its authority under the statute”. Twenty-seven states turned to the courts to successfully petition for a pause and in 2016. In March Pruitt told states they do not need to comply with the ruling, however, the attorney generals in 14 states said the regulation remains in effect unless the courts rule otherwise. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is expected to rule as soon as this fall.
The legal precedent for this motion stems from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that identified carbon dioxide as a pollutant that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. In 2009 the EPA officially announced that CO2 is a danger to public health and welfare and in 2014 the endangerment finding upheld this position. Rather than dismiss the plan the appeals court said the Trump administration must come up with an alternative. However, this was rejected by Pruitt in March.
Pruitt, like the man who tapped him to head the EPA is either woefully misinformed or a bold faced liar. Pruitt’s reaction to the The National Climate Assessment is a case in point. Pruitt said the research needs to be peer-reviewed, however, this assessment is drawn from peer-reviewed science and is itself peer reviewed.
Like his boss Pruitt may simply lie to advance his agenda. Several media outlets have reported on Pruitt’s lies. In March Pruitt’s obfuscation was on display on CNBC show Squawk Box. Pruitt was asked whether human carbon emissions are driving global warming. He responded by saying, “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
The American Meteorological Society called out Pruitt for misrepresenting the facts about climate change. The EPA scientific integrity office is reviewing Pruitt’s less than factual comments on GHGs. The office ensures that EPA officials and staff respect scientific findings and the overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and caused primarily by human activities.
Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked Pruitt about his remarks on Anthropogenic climate change and the health consequences of Trump’s EPA budget cuts. At the end of April Jeremy Symons referenced the Wallace interview and reviewed five examples of Pruitt’s avoidance and outright subterfuge. This includes Pruitt’s reference to “clean coal” which is a complete farce. He also incorrectly suggests that the Paris Agreement led to “contraction” of the American economy. He further states that China is doing very little to reduce emissions when they are leading the globe in climate action.
As eloquently explained by David Roberts in a Vox article:
“[W]ho cares what he [Pruitt] believes? He is a functionary, chosen in part to dismantle EPA regulations on greenhouse gases. If it weren’t him, it would be some other functionary. The GOP’s goal is to block or reverse any policy that would negatively affect its donors and supporters, who are drawn disproportionately from carbon-intensive industries and regions. That is the North Star — to protect those constituencies. That means, effectively, blocking any efficacious climate policy (which, almost by definition, will diminish fossil fuels). They can’t just say that, though, so they have to retrofit a set of beliefs that justify inaction on climate change.”