By Fredrica Syren:
It’s been a little over seven months since Scott Pruitt became the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and under his leadership the EPA has seen lots of changes. Scott Pruitt spent six years as the Oklahoma’s attorney general, suing the very same agency he now runs. Pruitt claimed in his lawsuits that former President Barrack Obama hampered the fossil fuel industry with unnecessary and onerous regulations such as efforts to regulate mercury, smog and other forms of pollution. In March, he also stated that he does not believe the scientific data that says that carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of global warming; and he denies that the release of CO2, a heat-trapping gas, is pushing global temperatures upward.
So, it is safe to say that Pruitt came in with a mission, and that once he took over the leadership of the EPA, we would witness some dramatic changes. We expected that Pruitt would make it easier for fossil fuel companies to conduct business without regulations and do less to protect the environment. And we were right to be worried.
In the seven months since Pruitt stepped into the role as the head of the EPA, he has
- Filed a proposal of intentto undo or weaken Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan.
- Called for a 31% budget cut that will affect programs aimed at slowing climate change, and improving water safety and air quality. It’s the climate protection budget that faces the most drastic reduction, almost 70 percent. Furthermore, other programs facing budget cuts are the agency’s monitoring and enforcement of compliance with environmental laws, initiatives for reducing diesel emissions, and beach water quality testing. It also will eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a wide-ranging cleanup of the world’s largest surface freshwater system. This initiative has deep bipartisan support across the eight states adjacent to the lakes, from Minnesota to New York.
- Set in motion a cut of 3,000 jobs, about 19 percent of the agency’s staff.
- Filed a legal planto repeal an Obama-era rule curbing pollution in the nation’s waterways.
- Delayed a rule that would require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells.
- Delayed the date by which companies must comply with a ruleto prevent explosions and spills at chemical plants.
- Reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the EPA’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems.
- Added appointees with serious conflicts of interest to the EPA, such as Nancy Beck who used to work for the chemical industry’s main lobbying organization. She is now one the highest political appointees at the EPA office. Justin Schwab, who used to be a lawyer for the coal business, is working for the EPA; and Christian Palich, who used to be a lobbyist for the coal industry, now holds a senior position at the EPA as well.
- Shown conflict of interest when he has regularly met with corporate executives from the automobile, mining and fossil fuel industries. In many cases after that, he made decisions favorable to those interest groups.
- Began steps toward withdrawing from the Obama administration’s “so-called clean power plan.
The sad part is that before Pruitt became the head of the EPA, it saved countless lives: it made America dramatically cleaner and healthier by monitoring air and water quality, held fossil-fuel companies to a standard, and enforced laws that will reduce pollution and greenhouse gasses.
If Scott Pruitt has his way, hundreds of thousands of Americans will be affected, and get sick or die prematurely because of toxic air and water pollutants. In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report showing how 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die each year because of environmental pollutants, and that more than 90% of the world’s population is thought to breathe air that violates quality guidelines set by WHO. It’s frustrating and scary to see what one man with an agenda and a conflict of interest can do to an agency created to protect the environment and citizens of the United States.