President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In recent weeks, a number of public officials have stepped forward to support Mr. Pruitt’s nomination. One would hope their testimonials would explain the public health and environmental values, experiences, and accomplishments that qualify Mr. Pruitt for the responsibility of carrying out the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the other federal laws adopted to protect the health and surroundings of millions of Americans.
But his supporters cite no such values, experiences and accomplishments.
Instead, they overwhelmingly laud Mr. Pruitt for opposing public health and environmental protection, and for the lawsuits he has undertaken, alongside some of the nation’s biggest polluters, to prevent EPA from carrying out its duties under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the other laws it is charged to implement.
Conspicuously absent from testimonials for Mr. Pruitt is a list of significant environmental protection accomplishments as Oklahoma Attorney General, or a clear statement of the environmental protection goals and values that he is for.
This upside-down, anti-qualification is where Mr. Pruitt supporters reveal their true agenda—and his. The arguments of Mr. Pruitt’s supporters actually show that he is unqualified to lead EPA and would threaten its mission to uphold U.S. environmental laws.
For example, a Jeb Bush op-ed supporting Mr. Pruitt identifies no prior environmental accomplishments, much less the impressive achievements that would qualify him to serve as chief enforcer of the nation's health and environmental laws. Tributes by Senator Jim Inhofe (R- OK) and by his fellow attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and West Virginia are just as devoid of any health or environmental accomplishments or commitments by Pruitt.
An op-ed pushing Mr. Pruitt by former Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth damns him with faint praise. As Mr. Pruitt’s leading environmental accomplishment, the former congresswoman offers up his having commissioned a study of the impact of phosphorous pollution on the Illinois River that runs between Oklahoma and Arkansas—pollution emanating from the concentrated poultry farming industry on the Arkansas side of the river. But she fails to tell the real story.
Mr. Pruitt’s predecessor had sued those Arkansas polluters in federal court. The Arkansas industry and state officials resisted, claiming Oklahoma’s pollution limit was too strict. When Mr. Pruitt took office, he jointly commissioned the three-year phosphorous study, putting that case on ice and appearing to undermine the lawsuit. In Mr. Pruitt’s six years, the Oklahoma lawsuit to clean up Arkansas’s pollution of the Illinois River has not moved forward. Some accomplishment.
Hayworth also points to a water rights settlement that Mr. Pruitt negotiated with Indian tribes. Again, she fails to tell the real story. A Native American newspaper has responded that Mr. Pruitt tried to dismiss the tribes’ lawsuits. The paper reports that if Mr. Pruitt had succeeded, “there wouldn’t have been a settlement at all,” dubbing him a “tribal sovereignty foe.”
Hayworth claims Mr. Pruitt has represented Oklahoma “in numerous actions against industrial polluters.” But she identifies no favorable environmental results. She fails to mention that Mr. Pruitt eliminated his office’s “Environmental Protection Unit” upon becoming Attorney General. In its place, he created a “Federalism Unit,” dedicated to filing more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA, many to overturn national safeguards to reduce dangerous air and water pollution.
Mr. Pruitt’s backers tout it as a virtue that he has sued the EPA again and again and again and again and again to overturn air and water pollution safeguards. In every instance, Mr. Pruitt has joined forces with polluting industries seeking to avoid clean up responsibilities. Not once has he pressed the EPA for more action to curb pollution.
Fortunately, Mr. Pruitt’s lawsuits have rarely succeeded. If they had succeeded, power plants, oil and gas producers, factory farms, and other operations across the country would have been allowed to release millions more tons of air and water pollution.
For example, in three lawsuits Mr. Pruitt targeted health standards for smog, soot, mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic air pollution from power plants—pollution limits that EPA projects will save up to 45,000 lives, and avoid hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and heart attacks, every year. A fourth Pruitt lawsuit, still pending, seeks to nullify the national health standard for smog pollution and return to outdated pollution limits that independent medical and science advisors to the government deemed unsafe and unprotective.
Mr. Pruitt also has sued EPA to overturn pollution safeguards for more than half of the nation’s waterways, including streams that feed into the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans. He even has attacked water pollution safeguards for the Chesapeake Bay and Appalachian streams—water bodies with no known links to Oklahoma.
Scott Pruitt has devoted his career as Attorney General to fighting EPA’s basic mission to protect human health and the environment.
Scott Pruitt does not deserve to be EPA Administrator. Senators should not confirm him.