The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will vote this coming Wednesday February 1, at 10:45 AM, on the nomination of Scott Pruitt for administrator. One Republican member, Susan Collins from Maine, is said to be on the fence about sending this to the full Senate for confirmation. It’s important to call Collins’ Maine office at 207–622-8414 and her Washington office at 202–224-2523 to express your outrage about this.
Here’s how Pruitt responded to senators’ questions after the committee hearing. Asked to identify any EPA regulation existing today that he supports, he wouldn’t come up with a single one. Was removing lead from gasoline, which happened years ago and prevented tons of air pollution, an important rule? Pruitt wouldn’t agree and said only, “I have not evaluated this issue.”
Would he keep enforcing the agency’s mercury and air toxics standards to also reduce lead, arsenic, and other cancer-causing chemicals from America’s power plants? Pruitt responded that he’d do so “long as that rule remains in force.” As Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt actually sued (and failed) to overturn these 2011 health protections that are believed to be annually saving 11,000 lives and avoiding 130,000 asthma attacks primarily among children.
He gave the same answer when asked about the EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule that cuts back on smog and soot emitted by those same plants – and yearly saves up to 34,000 lives while avoiding 400,000 asthma attacks (again mostly to children).
Asked to turn over information and documents concerning his ties to energy companies, Pruitt contemptuously instructed the senators to file requests under the Oklahoma open records law – something private citizens have been seeking for over two years.
Would he recuse himself from lawsuits he’s filed against EPA? Pruitt shrugged and said he would not “be representing the EPA as a lawyer” if confirmed. So much for any inherent conflicts of interest.
The EPA is already being scuttled by Trump’s transition team, where Don Benton is the Senior White House Advisor. A recent message from Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe to all EPA employees describes Benton’s “long and accomplished history in the private sector, in addition to his service as the head of a large county environmental office in Washington.” However, a column in the Seattle Times by Danny Westmeat details Benton’s “almost perfect track record of failure and interpersonal conflict, often resulting in legal or disciplinary action, at every position he’s held.” He only lasted eight months as a state senator before being voted out by fellow Republicans. He subsequently got dumped from that county environmental position, filing a $2 million lawsuit to cover mental health and stress counseling “after being mistreated on the job.” He’d followed a female senator around calling her “a trashy trampy-mouthed little girl,” earning him the columnist’s nomination as “Trump’s mini-me.” Trump went on to select Benton as his Northwest Campaign Manager. “Now he’s in a position of influence over a federal agency with 15,000 employees. What could go wrong?”
The White House EPA Liaison is Charles Munoz, another high-level Trump campaign advisor who in Nevada worked with the right-wing Americans for Prosperity think-tank heavily funded by the Koch brothers. Also on the transition team is David Kreutzer, who spent nine years in the Energy, Economics, and Climate Change department with the right-wing Heritage Foundation. And David Schnare, an attorney who used to be with EPA before joining the Free-Market Environmental Law Clinic.
For more on Schnare: https://www.desmogblog.com/2016/12/07/donald-trump-s-epa-landing-team-staffed-climate-science-deniers-and-lawyer-known-harassing-climate-scientists-legal.
I could go on, but you get the picture. This is a looming disaster for environmental protection and public health. Make all the calls you can!