As a sustainability professional, the thought of Myron Ebell leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seemed like a nightmare. We even wrote about it, here.
So last month, when Trump was faltering on his bold statement that climate change is a “Chinese conspiracy”, noting that he was “open to” the idea of “some connectivity” between humans and climate change, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope. Maybe… just maybe we wouldn’t have a climate denier leading an agency whose purpose is to protect the environment.
The result? No Ebell. Instead, we got Scott Pruitt. In the words of Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, it’s quite simply “like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.” We couldn’t have said it better.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Pruitt has served as Oklahoma attorney general since 2011. Throughout his time in office, he certainly did not hide his abhorrence for the EPA. In fact, he proudly calls himself “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
- He has even greater potential to dismantle the EPA than Ebell. Ebell is an outspoken climate skeptic, but Pruitt is a climate skeptic with political pull. Though Ebell’s work has funded attacks on the EPA and decried alarmism in the media, Pruitt has politically led the charge in debasing the agency.
- Pruitt is currently suing the EPA. Yes, he is involved in not one but two ongoing lawsuits against the agency he has been asked to run. He is currently challenging the Clean Power Plan and a recent ruling regarding the Clean Water Act. And this isn’t the first time. In the last five years, Pruitt challenged the EPA and other federal environmental agencies in at least eight federal lawsuits. Though his rate of almost two suits per year is impressive, the majority of the lawsuits were dismissed.
- His squad is as slippery as they come. Pruitt has a close affinity with the oil and gas industry. In fact, he and Trump are close friends with oil magnate Harold Hamm. Hamm joined Pruitt on his tirades against environmental policy before, suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. During his 2014 reelection campaign – which Hamm ran – Pruitt received $114,000 from energy company PACs and executives, even though he was running unopposed.
When Trump said he wanted to “drain the swamp”, it seems he literally wanted to put someone in charge who had no regard for waterways. NRDC president Rhea Suh sums up our thinking in an interview with PBS, “The thing that is quite worrisome about this nominee in particular is that he has gone after those underlying statutes and questioned the very legitimacy of us as a community, as a nation to have the right to things like clear air and clean water.”
 Trump, Donald (2016, November 23). Donald Trump’s New York Times Interview. (Sulzberger Jr., Arthur et.al, Interviewer). Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/trump-new-york-times-interview-transcript.html
Ashley has been interning in our New York office since late September. Though she has interned in the nonprofit, government and financial sectors, she has found her true passion in corporate sustainability. In May, Ashley received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Policy with a minor in Cultural Anthropology. She plans on continuing to pursue her interest in sustainable solutions in the private sector and eventually earning a Master’s Degree.