How Scott Pruitt Is Gutting the EPA on Behalf of the Fossil-Fuel Industry
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wants you to know that he was responsible for persuading President Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Pruitt has never said that explicitly, of course – he understands that if he wants to keep his job, he needs to pretend that the decision was Trump’s alone. But Pruitt did everything he could to telegraph to the world that he thought Paris was a bad deal for America, and urged Big Coal executives to make their views known to the president as well. Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, was lobbied equally hard by major business leaders and some of his own advisers, including his daughter Ivanka and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to stay in the agreement. But Pruitt, aligned with White House chief strategist and populist provocateur Steve Bannon, won the fight. And when Trump announced the decision to withdraw from Paris in the White House Rose Garden on June 1st, Pruitt was the only Cabinet official who spoke at the ceremony. “We owe no apologies to other nations for our environmental stewardship,” Pruitt said in a strikingly defiant tone.
While the rest of the Trump administration has been mired in scandal or incompetence (or both), and the media has been distracted by the Republican health care debacle and daily revelations about the Trump family’s involvement with the Russians, Pruitt has been quietly tearing down decades of environmental progress. “If there was ever an example of the fox guarding the henhouse, this is it,” says Michael Mann, a noted climate scientist at Penn State University. “We have a Koch-brothers-connected industry shill who is now in charge of climate and environmental policy for the entire country.”
The mission statement of the EPA is simple: “to protect human health and the environment.” It says nothing about promoting economic development or energy security or the glory of fossil fuels. But Pruitt has already carried out an impressive list of corporate favors: He rejected the advice of EPA scientists and approved the use of millions of pounds of a toxic pesticide that causes neurological damage in children; in a gift to Big Coal, he delayed tougher ozone air-pollution rules; he plotted to kill Obama’s signature climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan, designed to put America on track to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030; he rescinded the Clean Water Rule, allowing countless streams and rivers to be exempted from pollution controls; he undermined regulations on the release of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, from power plants and other sources; and he submitted a budget that would wipe out more than a third of the funding for the agency, including cutting money for scientific research in half.