Unfit for Duty

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Donald Trump’s picks for the EPA, Energy, and Interior could be disastrous for our planet’s future.

U.S. Senators committed to standing up for our environment and health will have three opportunities to do so this week, during confirmation hearings for Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, and Ryan Zinke. Each is in line for a post that has much to do with shaping our future. And each has a sorry record when it comes to clean air and water, public lands and oceans, and climate and clean energy leadership.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is the worst nominee ever tapped to lead the U.S Environmental Protection Administration. He doesn’t have a single environmental achievement to his name, doesn’t believe in the agency’s mission, and has made a career out of suing the EPA to try to block it from doing its job as the guardian of our environment and health. Even now, secretive industry-backed groups are raising millions of dollars to try to pressure the Senate into approving Pruitt’s nomination.

The Senate must reject this unfit candidate so he can’t block needed progress as the agency’s head.

Pruitt has taken more than $300,000―and counting―in political donations from big oil, gas, and coal companies. He’s joined with the fossil fuel industry and other industrial polluters in one lawsuit after another aimed at crippling the EPA’s ability to do much of its most vital work. He’s worked for years to thwart the agency he’s been named to lead.

Who does that?

Who goes to court to fight rules to clean up our air or to try to block new standards that prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks every year? Who sues the EPA to try to kill needed protections for the wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for one American in every three? And who brags about his efforts to spike the single most important thing we can do to protect our kids from the growing dangers of climate change, by trying to block plans to cut the carbon footprint of our power plants?

Scott Pruitt has done all that, and more, aligning himself with the industrial polluters who have helped to fund his political career.

In 2011, Pruitt fired off a complaint to the EPA on his official Oklahoma Attorney General letterhead, asserting that the EPA had overestimated air pollution in his state from drilling for natural gas. That letter was actually written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of the state’s largest oil and gas drilling companies, The New York Times reported.

Far from apologizing, Pruitt boasted, “That’s actually called representative government in my view of the world.” That view turns democracy upside down, putting special interests ahead of public benefits.

Pruitt claims climate change science isn’t yet settled, echoing the false nonsense the fossil fuel industry has spewed out for years. Small wonder the Senate’s most vocal denier of climate change, Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe, calls Pruitt “the ideal candidate to head the EPA.”

We don’t need to shackle the EPA. We need it to be strong enough to protect our environment and health. When the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee takes up Pruitt’s nomination in a hearing Wednesday, January 18, its members ought to ask tough questions about his record of anti-environmental activism on behalf of polluting industries.

This isn’t about partisan politics. This is about fitness to serve.

Scott Pruitt isn’t fit to run the EPA. The Senate must reject his nomination outright and insist on a candidate who will strengthen the work of this agency, not run it into the ground.

As a presidential candidate four years ago, former Texas governor Rick Perry famously promised to shut down the Energy Department―if only he could remember its name. Now, in a twist befitting Alice in Wonderland, he’s been nominated to run the agency.

What is going on here?

The Department of Energy is not some kind of optional extra we could do without. Its work is vital to our economy and national security. It is charged with keeping our country at the forefront of cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. It plays a key role in improving our efficiency, so we do more with less waste, and in helping us get more clean energy from the wind and sun. And it works to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to oversee the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

Rick Perry is the wrong man to lead this important work. He’s done nothing but denigrate the Energy Department’s mission. When they take up his nomination at a hearing Thursday, January 19, members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee should make this clear.

On Tuesday, the same committee takes up the nomination of Rep. Ryan Zinke to become Secretary of the Interior. In that position, the Republican from Montana would oversee management of our national parks, waters, wildlife refuges, monuments, and other public lands spanning roughly 450 million acres―nearly one-fifth of the nation’s total. He would also oversee the enforcement of laws that protect wildlife and natural habitat.

The problem is that Zinke has established a poor record during his brief career in Congress when it comes to voting in support of all that. We shouldn’t be taking a chance when we put someone in charge of federal lands, and the Senate should reject Zinke’s nomination.

He says he’s opposed to transferring public lands to the states. He has supported, though, the idea of giving states a larger role in managing those lands, a concept in line with president-elect Donald Trump’s repeated pledges to hand over vast expanses of these lands we all share to the coal, oil, gas, and logging industries.

The Interior Secretary is the steward of our national inheritance, the public waters and lands set aside more than a century ago by presidents from both parties dating back to Teddy Roosevelt. At Tuesday’s hearing, Zinke needs to demonstrate that he’s ready to be as vigilant in protecting those lands as he was in defending this nation during his career as a Navy SEAL.