President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, to be the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt’s primary previous connection to EPA is that he has joined with corporations in multiple lawsuits to overturn federal safeguards that reduce air pollution and water pollution. Pruitt has joined coal mining companies and power plant companies to overturn EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule under the Clean Air Act. These crucial clean air safeguards reduce tiny soot particles, sulfur dioxide and smog- forming pollutants from coal-burning power plants in the eastern half of the United States.
Pruitt tried to nullify a Cross State Air Pollution Rule projected to prevent as many as 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks and 400,000 asthma attacks, while avoiding 1.8 million lost work or sick days, every year beginning in 2014. Each year the rule also was projected to avoid 240,000 incidents of lower respiratory symptoms among children aged 7-14, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children aged 8-12, and nearly 10,000 emergency room visits by youth under the age of 18 with asthma.
These annual health benefits resulted from preventing 3,803,000 million tons of harmful sulfur dioxide emissions—a 53% reduction from the electric power sector; and 199,000 tons of smog- forming nitrogen oxide emissions—a 10% reduction from the electric power sector. (These benefits are over and above the health and pollution benefits in EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which Pruitt also sought to overturn.) The health benefits of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule were estimated were valued at up to $280 billion per year, with compliance costs to power companies of less than $1 billion.
In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the rule and rejected the legal challenges by Pruitt and industry. Pruitt said he was “disappointed” in the 6-2 ruling but vowed to keep fighting EPA and what he called the expansion of its authority—which the Supreme Court had just upheld for being squarely within the agency’s Clean Air Act obligations.
Power plants are complying with these clean air standards. They complied by installing air pollution control devices or switching to cleaner electricity generation that meets the standards and can save Americans money on their electric bills.
If he were to become EPA Administrator, Pruitt would be in a position to attempt to reverse these clean air standards. He could even try to have EPA switch sides and cave in to the state and industry litigants still fighting in court, although he should recuse himself from such decisions because of the lawsuits he’s brought. Pruitt could try to let power companies once again emit millions more tons of harmful soot and smog pollution, even though the Clean Air Act requires this pollution to be reduced to safe levels for all Americans.
Scott Pruitt does not deserve to be EPA Administrator. Senators should not confirm him.
This chart breaks out on a state-by-state basis the estimated death toll that would have been inflicted upon Americans—every year—if Pruitt and his industry co-litigants had succeeded in overturning EPA Cross State Air Pollution Rule.
|Area||Projection of Maximum Lives Saved by Cross State Air Pollution Rule Each Year|
|District of Columbia||74|
https://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/cross-state-air-pollution-fact-sheet-us.pdf. The rule’s health and economic benefits correspond generally to the presence of power plants that burn coal or oil in the state or upwind of the state. Additional health benefits under the rule include avoided non-fatal heart attacks, asthma attacks and other avoided illnesses; avoided ER & hospital visits; and days not missed at work or school.