The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 34

EPA chief Scott Pruitt is a salesman for fossil fuels—but the world tells the Trump administration (again) that it will power forward to fight climate change.
Credit: Alamy

EPA chief Scott Pruitt is a salesman for fossil fuels—but the world tells the Trump administration (again) that it will power forward to fight climate change.

Maybe it was the old rock song “Marrakesh Express“ that moved Scott Pruitt to take flight.

“Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind . . . Had to get away to see what we could find . . .”

Maybe that’s why the chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a passel of aides unexpectedly turned up this past week in Morocco. Pruitt apparently kept the agency’s mission―“to protect human health and the environment”―in the deep background when he sat down with Moroccan officials to promote natural gas. They’re interested in importing the fossil fuel that poses a host of health and environmental risks.

“It’s a sad day when America’s top environmental protection officer is a salesman for fossil fuels,” said David Doniger, NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program director. “I think this is quite unusual. I’m not aware of prior examples of the EPA head turning himself or herself into a pitchman for the fossil fuel industry.”

One potential winner: Pruitt’s old friends at Devon Energy in Oklahoma, producers of gas. He worked closely with them as the state’s attorney general, fighting the EPA on its estimates of air pollution, caused by methane coming from natural gas drilling operations.

One possible loser: the American taxpayer. Pruitt’s trip cost them $40,000, the AP reported.

As 2017 winds down, President Trump & co. continues in other ways to jeopardize our health and environment, but there are bright spots.

Trump Touts Terrible 2:1 Plan Putting Public Health at Risk

In a classic case of spin, Trump on December 14 promoted one of his most dangerous initiatives―an order to erase two existing federal regulations for every new one approved—as a prime means of eliminating obstacles to job and economic growth. He did not substantiate this claim.

“Don’t be fooled,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “This order imposes a false choice between clean air, clean water, safe food, and other environmental safeguards. This deregulatory frenzy is a push to lower costs for industry. What is totally absent here is even the slightest effort to remember that rules protect our health.”

Did You Hear That, Mr. Administrator? Watchdog Investigating Your Supersecret Phone booth

News broke on December 12 that the EPA’s watchdog is investigating a high-tech $25,000 secure phone booth Pruitt had installed in an area near his third-floor office—which EPA officials say he needs for private conversations with the While House and other administration officials. The cost has risen because of the extra $8,000 or so spent to remove closed-circuit television equipment to make way for the booth.

This joins the inspector general’s inquiry launched in August into Pruitt’s questionable frequent flights mostly to Oklahoma, where he may be considering a run for future political office.

The Washington Post noted that he had, by that time, already spent $58,000 on charter and military flights.

Trump’s Pick to Head EPA Chemical Safety Office Exits

Michael Dourson had a long and profitable career as a go-to scientist for hire when chemical companies wanted to avoid toxic safeguards. On December 13, Dourson, who had expressed doubts about the dangers of pesticides, flame retardants, and other chemicals, withdrew his nomination to head the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

“Science deniers & outliers lost a major fight with withdrawal of the reckless nomination of Michael Dourson,” tweeted John Walke, Clean Air program director at NRDC.

The World to Trump: We’ll Accelerate Climate Action

On the second anniversary of the historic Paris climate agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron gathered a wide array of public and private sector leaders at the One Planet Summit, where everyone, instead of patting themselves on the back, rolled up their sleeves to double down on fighting climate change.

So while Pruitt―a foe, along with Trump, of the global climate accord—reveled in Casablanca, Macron’s unmistakable message was “We’ll always have Paris.”

NRDC International program leaders Brendan Guy and Jake Schmidt recapped commitments and pledges of action and investment they heard from city, state, national, and major company leaders aimed at curbing climate change, building up clean energy economies, and protecting people around the world from climate harm.

There’s “an ever-building tsunami of climate action,” they wrote. “The Paris Agreement is already rapidly shifting from words on paper to reality on-the-ground . . . In a year that has been plagued by historic climate-fueled disasters that have touched every continent, the One Planet Summit is a reminder that climate action has never been so possible nor so necessary.”

That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch and fact-checking the president’s misstatements in Trump Lies.


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