New EPA administrator expected to take EPA in a new direction, bring unwelcomed changes for environmentalists
By: Michael Lander
Environmentalists and advocates for clean air and water, and land free of mining
and industrial contaminants, received a major setback when the U.S. Senate
confirmed Scott Pruitt, on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, as the new Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) administrator.
Pruitt had previously been Oklahoma’s attorney general who worked tirelessly on
behalf of fossil fuel companies in his state while vigorously fighting against any
federal regulations that these companies viewed as unnecessarily restrictive or
Opponents to President Trump’s pick to head the EPA had a long list of grievances
over Pruitt’s nomination and the votes
for and against Pruitt came down along party lines with Republicans providing
the votes needed for his confirmation.
This vote was held even before Congress had an opportunity to view the contents
of emails between Pruitt and oil, gas, and coal industries. These emails would have soon been available for them to review in a matter of days, after an Oklahoma judge had ruled in favor of the Center for Media and Democracy, which had sued and had won the case for their release.
Following their release days later, these emails reveal that Pruitt had extremely close and friendly ties with fossil fuel firms and electric utilities, Koch Industries owners and billionaire brothers - Charles and David Koch, and lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Pruitt has, most notably, raised the ire of his opponents after suing the EPA over
a dozen times and he has publicly vowed to curb the agencies regulatory reach
once he is in office.
Because of Pruitt’s stance, Senator Tom
Udall, D-New Mexico, has been one of the more outspoken of his opponents.
“Mr. Pruitt has extreme environmental policy views…… he has made his name
opposing EPA rules that protect human health and the environment, fighting
against clean air and clean water, disregarding the science behind the EPA’s
protection for human health and the environment, on behalf of for-profit
special interests, not the public interest,” Udall said.
As Oklahoma attorney general, Udall has claimed that Pruitt worked directly
with energy lobbyists to further their interests and to file lawsuits against a
wide range of environmental regulations.
He also openly challenged EPA rules on fracking, controls on pollution from
power plants, limits on mercury emissions, and sought to reduce clean air and water regulations,
According to Pruitt’s own webpage as Oklahoma
attorney general, he lists the establishment of Oklahoma’s first federalism
unit to combat unwarranted regulation and overreach of the federal government
as one of his major accomplishments.
The EPA, which Pruitt will now head, has, ironically, had a mission that seems
to be counter to many of the positions that he has previously held concerning
Since its inception on Dec. 2, 1970, the mission of the
EPA has been seeking to protect human health and the environment, to develop
and enforce environmental regulations, sponsoring partnerships and providing
grants to states, non-profits, educational institutions, etc., conducting
studies on environmental issues, teaching people about the environment, and
publishing information about what it does.
Many environmental groups attribute the vast improvement of clean air and water
throughout the U.S., over the past 46 years, as having come about because of
the work of the EPA.
Click here for information on the history
and milestones of the EPA.
Many of those environmental groups now fear that, with the appointment of
Pruitt as head of the EPA, we may now see a change in the mission and
the direction that the agency will now be moving in.
For some, this move comes as little surprise with the election of a president
who has a business background and a Republican-controlled Congress, which has not
been shy in their support of business and their interest in rolling back
federal regulations that they believe may present obstacles for businesses.
The question posed by those who are pro-environment, however, is whether or not
that we should provide unbridled support of business at the expense of the
Many environmentalists argue that the short term benefits to business should
not outweigh the long term destructive impact that a rollback of environmental
protection might have.
Of particular concern for many is the vast amount of evidence, from
organizations like National
Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), that indicates that there is a
strong correlation between pollutants and the higher incidents of respiratory,
cancer, and other serious health problems.
Pruitt has not addressed, or attempted to allay any of these concerns, but he has
spoken about the need for the EPA to change its focus.
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our
economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in
a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom
for American businesses,” Pruitt said.
For those who are also concerned about climate change and global warming, they
should not expect to find any support or encouragement from Pruitt.
Pruitt has written that the debate on climate change is far from settled and he
was among a coalition of various state attorney generals across the country who
sued the EPA’s
Clean Power Plan, which came about as an Obama-era policy aimed at reducing greenhouse
While Pruitt’s position on the issue of climate change and global warming stands
in sharp contrast to at least 198 worldwide scientific
organizations that contend that climate change has been caused by human action,
it is likely to find considerable support among those who believe that climate change is
unproven and only a product of pseudoscience.
Those who disagree with that position argue that the evidence backs up their case
that humans are having a negative impact on the world’s climate and that those
who do not believe it are being led more by their politics than by science.
Since the risk that our actions will eventually become irreversible, they
contend, it doesn’t make any sense to just ignore the evidence. It
would be more prudent, they believe, for us to take a more cautionary approach, instead, and to
pursue renewable energy, which could provide jobs and still protect our fragile
In addition to that, environmentalists are also troubled over the fact that any climate
change references were immediately removed from the official White House
website after Trump’s inauguration.
They fear that this might just be the beginning of the removal of
any data that runs counter to their position on this topic.