Opinion

Pruitt’s EPA: Hiring a Fox to Guard the Henhouse

By Gene Karpinski
January 18, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Throughout his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump pledged to end corruption in Washington, D.C. Now, however, he has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. That is not “draining the swamp,” Mr. Trump — it is hiring a fox to guard the henhouse.

Not only is Pruitt openly hostile to the EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment, he has demonstrated time and again that he is willing to put polluters’ interests above all else. Having him at the helm of the EPA sets up a massive series of conflicts of interest. His history of repeatedly suing to block the EPA’s clean air and water protections, taking significant funding from fossil fuel interests, and denying climate change should disqualify him from leading our nation’s environmental and public health watchdog.

As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt has used his position of power to attack commonsense policies that would protect the environment and public health. Suing the EPA at every turn, he has worked to block limits on the pollution spewing from power plants, ranging from mercury — a potent neurotoxin especially dangerous to kids — to carbon pollution. He has also sued to block clean water protections, which are critical to the drinking water that 1 in 3 people in this country rely on. Pruitt is even suing to stop the Clean Power Plan, which would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in children per year by 2030.

Pruitt is also a climate change denier. He called the science behind climate change “far from settled” and any effort to quantify the risk it poses to business “speculative guess work.” An administrator that is at odds with 97 percent of climate scientists is not an administrator we can trust to lead an agency playing a key role in the fight against climate change.

Maybe worst of all is Pruitt’s approach to policymaking. He is not just cozy with industry, rather Pruitt has demonstrated, again and again, that his office favors special interests over public welfare.

Pruitt has repeatedly chosen his donors from the fossil fuel industry over the people of Oklahoma and the United States. In 2014, a New York Times investigation revealed that Pruitt was part of an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with large fossil fuel companies. Pruitt has personally accepted nearly $350,000 from the fossil fuel industry to fund his campaigns.

Throughout his time as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, he added to his troubling track record of favoring special interests. In 2016, just weeks after RAGA received $50,000 from ExxonMobil, Pruitt wrote an op-ed defending ExxonMobil and their denial of climate change science. In total, ExxonMobil donated $160,000 to RAGA from 2014 to 2016.

This was not the first situation involving RAGA, Pruitt and polluters. In 2014, Devon Energy, an oil and gas company, donated $125,000 to RAGA on March 31 and just a few days later on April 2 Pruitt authored an official protest with the EPA, to the benefit of Devon Energy. Once, Pruitt even sent an official letter from his taxpayer-funded office that was written almost entirely by a lobbyist for Devon Energy — out of the letter’s more than 1,000 words, a mere 37 were changed.

Pruitt is shockingly open about the “for sale” sign on his desk. Defending himself from accusations of overly cozy relationships with industry, Pruitt said, “That’s actually called representative government in my view of the world.” At the League of Conservation Voters, we strongly disagree. We believe representative government means doing what is in the public’s interest, not polluters’ interest.

Pruitt has proven he is far outside the mainstream. The American public knows climate change is real and wants action taken to curb its devastating impacts. The public wants and trusts the EPA to protect our air, water, and health. The public distrusts fossil fuel corporations and those politicians beholden to them.

Trump promised to drain the swamp. But instead, as his nomination of Pruitt demonstrates, he is assembling a Cabinet that is rigged in favor of big corporations and the wealthy. We need a government and an EPA for all people in this country. The public does not agree with Pruitt’s radical views and extreme record and neither should the U.S. Senate. On behalf of the more than 2 million members of the League of Conservation Voters, I urge senators to reject Pruitt’s nomination.

 

Gene Karpinski is the president of the League of Conservation Voters.

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