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Scott Pruitt should not be confirmed as head of the EPA

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By Alex Durham

A world with Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a world that frightens me. For those of you who do not recognize the name, just do a quick Google search, sift through the articles talking about his nomination, and you’ll discover all of the stories regarding his lawsuits against the EPA.

Yes, lawsuits. Plural. Pruitt has spent a large part of his legal career fighting the very agency he was nominated to head. Pruitt has sued the EPA a total of 13 times, and eight of those cases are still pending. All of these lawsuits arose when he was attorney general, and all of the lawsuits were to stop the EPA from implementing plans such as the Clean Air Act, new water regulations, and Obama’s climate change policy. Evidently, not believing in climate change isn’t enough for him.

But, sure, let’s play with the idea of Pruitt being head of the EPA. Since its founding in 1970, the agency has teamed up with states and the federal government to implement regulations that prevent climate change and reduce pollution. They have proposed and passed legislation such as the the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Air Pollution Control Act. They are the literal embodiment of environmental protection in the United States, and nobody can argue that they haven’t done what they can to protect the environment.

Now, with Scott Pruitt vying for head of the agency, everything will fall apart. The eight lawsuits that he brought against the agency will be taken over by the next attorney general of Oklahoma, and Pruitt can simply order the EPA to stop fighting them. Climate change? Forget about it. Pertaining to the classic Republican mindset that global warming is a hoax and trying to do anything about it is a waste of money and resources, Pruitt has said that he plans to abolish Obama’s climate change policy and the Clean Power Plan. Both of these plans are progressive in their intent and are aimed at reducing the amount of carbon emission the United States releases, which make them hot and ready for some conservative backlash.

Now, if you have abnegated everything I have written so far, deeming it biased liberal trash, maybe you will better digest some numbers and statements that Pruitt said himself. Putting aside any prior notions that I had about Pruitt, there are very few other people Trump could have chosen that would be more ill-fit to head the EPA.

Writing in a conservative National Review Column in May, Pruitt and the Alabama attorney general Luther Strange stated confidently that scientists disagree about the “degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind.” This is false. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive survey of 489 members of the American Meteorological Society and American Geophysical Union, 97 percent agreed that global temperatures have increased during the past 100 years. In addition to this, 84 percent said they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74 percent agreed that “currently available scientific evidence” substantiates the warming.

Air pollution in national parks and forests has been a problem since the mid-1900s. In 1988, the federal government began more thorough monitoring of haze levels that were creeping up, and in 1999 the EPA took huge steps to improve air quality in the parks and forests by passing the Visibility and Regional Haze Program, which had the goal of reducing the amount of harmful gases emitted by nearby coal and power plants. This plan had been in effect for 15 years when Pruitt sued the EPA in 2014, attempting to block the Regional Haze Rule. Pruitt thought that this rule, which had the objective of improving the environment and preserving national forest land, was unfair to the coal and power companies and restricted them too much. In an email to StateImpact, Pruitt called the plan “onerous” and said that plan “wouldn’t make a discernable difference to air quality in the region.”

The number one plan that Pruitt will advocate against is the Clean Power Plan, which is the first of its kind, setting a national limit on the amount of carbon dioxide power plants can emit. Relative to the 2005 standard, the plan would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent in 25 years, a decrease that the world has not seen before. The plan would also reduce the pollutants that contribute to smog and soot by 25 percent, and the reductions would net the country $25-45 billion in climate and health benefits. Instead of reasoning through the details of the plan, which would simply require states to draw up a power saving plan and submit it to the EPA, Pruitt went ahead and sued them. His reasoning was that the plan was “unconstitutional” and unfair to the power plants that it would be impacting. No negotiating, just suing.

So I ask you, readers, do you care about the environment? All of you will say yes, and so then I ask you, is Scott Pruitt the man you want leading the agency that protects the environment in the country? If you answered yes there, I ask that you go back to the first question. Scott Pruitt has shown no interest in preserving the environment. He does not care about any activism in the field of climate change. His own website says that he is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” I do not believe that Pruitt is the man that should be leading the EPA, and people need to recognize the danger that he would present to the environment in the United States.

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