Scott Pruitt makes his living sucking the teat of big polluters. Although Pruitt has all but ignored environmental groups he has regularly met with regulated concerns. The fossil fuel industry is now running the EPA and chemical industry lobbyists are writing the agency’s toxic chemical rules.
Pruitt has quietly sought to eviscerate key protections including the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Rule, methane emission limits, and bans on dangerous pesticides like chlorpyrifos. Pruitt thinks industry should be allowed to discharge unlimited amounts of climate change causing emissions (carbon and methane), smog-forming volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing pollutants like benzene into the air we breathe.
A closer look at his assault on water rules reveal that Pruitt is systematically dismantling these protections. At the behest of industry the EPA is reviewing a number of water rules including Section 316B Cooling Water Intake Structure Rule. To benefit the oil and gas industry the EPA is reviewing Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, impacting local water quality. Agency staffers were also asked to withdraw the 2015 Water Quality Standards Rule, an update of the Clean Water Act that was designed to limit water pollution and protect water quality. The EPA is also reassessing drinking water standards for beryllium and guidance for selenium levels in freshwater, the aquifer exemption under the Safe Drinking Water Act; and the National Pollution Discharge and Elimination System.
To add insult to injury, on March 30, 2018 Pruitt signed a directive that gives him final jurisdictional authority over America’s lakes, rivers, streams, ponds and wetlands. The move consolidates his power and dis-empowers EPA field workers.
In March 2017 EPA officials proposed eliminating two programs focused on limiting children’s exposure to lead-based paint, which is known to cause damage to developing brains and nervous systems (more than a quarter of a million American children are known to have high levels of lead in their bloodstream). In June Pruitt announced that he would stay enforcement of leaks called “fugitive emissions”. However, in July, the Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit ordered the EPA. to lift its stay on the rule while they reconsider regulations.
In September, the EPA announced that it was planning to allow unlimited dumping of fracking waste water into the Gulf of Mexico. In October Pruitt signed a proposal that would allow America’s power plants to emit unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air. At the beginning of March 2018 Pruitt announced a proposal to eliminate coal ash regulations. At the end of March Pruitt announced that he was eliminating programs that research the impact of toxic chemicals on kids. Now Pruitt is working to kill a new generation of more efficient cars in the US. This move will cost Americans more at the pump and dump hundreds of millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This proposal is in response to an anti-science car industry lobbying group called the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Pruitt has radically changed the EPA from an agency that focuses on public health to one that panders to the interests of polluters. His deregulatory efforts signal that it is open season for polluters. By virtue of the fact that they are no longer forced to pay for their environmental insults, polluters have been given a financial incentive to pollute (it is cheaper to pollute than to manage that pollution).
Rather than work for the health of Americans Pruitt is paving the way for polluters. His visit to Harvey Mine is a tangible example of his efforts to accommodate polluters without regard for the environment. Pruitt went to Harvey Mine, in Sycamore, Pennsylvania, to announce a new direction for the EPA in April 2017. The coal-mining complex is owned by Consol Energy, a company that has been fined millions of dollars for discharging contaminated waste water into the Ohio river. Pruitt also personally brokered a backroom deal to bring back the Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
In November Pruitt released a proposal that would create a loophole for some of the most highly polluting trucks in America. By removing clean truck standards, so called Glider trucks would be free to pollute. According to EPA’s own estimates, reopening this loophole would result in as many as 6,400 premature deaths from truck sales through 2021. It is no coincidence that Pruitt met with Fitzgerald Glider Kits, America’s largest glider manufacturer, at EPA Headquarters earlier this year.
Superfund clean ups is the one area where Pruitt appears to be doing something. However, a closer look reveals that this is a sham. At the same time that Pruitt has been pledging to clean up some Superfund sites, he has been dismantling important Superfund regulations and creating the conditions that are sure to create new Superfund sites. In December, he announced that he would eliminate a 2016 rule called the financial assurances law requiring hard-rock-mining operations to prove they had the financial resources to clean up the toxic messes they make.
Pruitt has worked to undermine the EPA’s core mandates including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and the Endangerment Finding. Pruitt is polluting the air Americans breathe, the water they drink and the soil they depend on for their food. Pruitt’s actions at the EPA represent a grave physical threat to the well-being of Americans. This is the most serious assault on environmental protections since President Lyndon Johnson asked for passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in 1965.
Although Pruitt’s actions benefit polluters they make no economic sense. In 2011 the EPA released a report that stated that the economic value of the air quality improvements under the clean air act is estimated to reach almost $2 trillion for the year 2020. The avoided costs are estimated to be $65 billion.
Even if we ignore climate change Pruitt’s impact on air quality alone will kill millions of Americans. The EPA study says that the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments will avoid “more than 230,000 early deaths, as well as large numbers of other adverse health effects, through improvements in fine particle and ozone levels.” Citing the same study the NRDC claims that the Clean Air Act will save a total of 4.2 million American lives.
How do you describe actions that are known to kill people? This is the definition of murder. How do you describe these actions when they are perpetrated by government against large numbers of people? This is the definition of genocide.
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