Trump Picks Anti-EPA Pruitt to Head the EPA


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Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt arrives at Trump Tower on Wednesday December 7, 2016.
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On Wednesday, it was announced that Donald Trump will nominate Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) In his announcement, Trump said that the EPA has pursued "an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs" and that Pruitt "will reverse this trend and restore the EPA's essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe."

Scott Pruitt, the man who has been chosen to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has sued the Environmental Protection Agency multiple times. Like many of Trump's other appointments, Pruitt has key philosophical differences with the mission of the agency he has been chosen to run. His official biography describes him as "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda." The Oklahoma attorney general, who has no scientific background, does not believe in the global consensus on climate change despite the fact that 97% of scientific papers taking a position on global warming agreed that humans are causing it. He is also one of many individuals and states lobbying against the EPA's scientific declaration that climate change poses a threat to public health and welfare.

Environmentalists and activist groups are loudly denouncing the appointment of Pruitt. The Sierra Club called Pruitt "unfit" to lead the EPA, and likened his appointment to "putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires." The President of the Environment Defense Fund, Fred Krupp, called Pruitt "a deeply troubling choice to head the agency that protects the clean air all Americans breathe and the clean water we drink."

Those in the oil and gas industry are thrilled with the choice. The International Association of Drilling Contractors said the appointment shows "a clear focus of the incoming administration to foster oil and gas development." The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association said they "welcome a more measured regulatory approach to the EPA that will give a voice to all."

It is no surprise that the oil and gas industry is thrilled with the choice - Pruitt has deep ties to the industry. Fossil fuel interests have given significant sums of money to his campaigns. Pruitt raised $114,000 from energy company PACs and executives, including PACs connected to Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries. Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, one of the nation's biggest oil producers, was a co-chairman of Pruitt's re-election campaign.

Pruitt's ties to the oil and gas industry is deeply troubling. Fossil fuels are one of the primary gases responsible for global warming. Burning fossil fuel releases carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. In addition, they pollute the air and lead to thermal pollution which releases heat into lakes and other bodies of water, upsetting the ecosystem. Pruitt's relationships will likely influence how he decides to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

In the last 150 years, the burning of fossil fuels has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by 25%. Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to increase Earth's average temperature, raise seal levels, shift ecosystem characteristics and increase the intensity and frequency of extreme events. The resulting damage will affect public health, weather, the economy, food supply and so much else. Rising sea levels will damage properties and critical infrastructure, including energy, water supply and transportation. Increasing temperatures will destroy crops and lead to declines in agricultural productivity and labor productivity.

Interestingly enough, those who voted for Trump may be hit the hardest by the impact of climate change. Risky Business, an initiative put forth by former New York City Mayor Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and philanthropist Tom Steyer, released a report on the effects of climate change across the United States. The report explains how the Southeast region of the country - Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Kentucky Louisiana and the Carolinas - is the most vulnerable. These states went to Trump in the election. The manufacturing industry, whose votes largely went to Trump will also be hit hard. He won the vote of manufacturing households by 18%. Manufacturing will be hit hard given its dependence on transportation infrastructure, which are at risk from rising temperatures and higher sea levels. Manufacturing plants are also place-based so they are not easily moved.

While this nomination does not make sense given that Pruitt is anti-science and against environmental regulation, it does make sense given Trump's stance on the environment. Trump has called human-caused global warming a hoax and called Obama's Clean Power Plan, a federal law designed to control air pollution on a national level, a "war on coal." During his campaign, Trump called the work of the EPA "a disgrace," and vowed to drastically shrink the agency. With Pruitt at the head, he may be able to accomplish just that.

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