Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pruitt is Gone but his Destructive Legacy will Endure

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5th in response to a litany of controversies including his relationships with lobbyists, inappropriate spending, and dozens of other abuses of his office. Pruitt is well known as a climate denier who is in a deeply committed long-term relationship with the oil and gas industry. His reign at the head of the EPA was defined by his efforts to kill Obama-era climate regulations and rules designed to protect Americans from pollution.

The NRDC's Rea Suh said, "[Pruitt's resignation] is a major victory for our environment, our health, and our future." A Beacon article announcing Pruitt's departure read, "The EPA lost its top grifter". The article continued saying, "Scott Pruitt was likely the most scandal-ridden, brown-nosing, oil-loving, climate-denying administrator to ever walk the halls of the EPA." Senator Bernie Sanders accurately summed up the sentiments of many when he called Pruitt, "the worst EPA administrator in the history of the agency".

Pruitt is the focus of almost 20 different federal investigations of misconduct. Republican lawmakers questioned his conduct and some called for his removal. Even Republicans who walk in lock step with Trump were highly critical of the EPA chief including Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who said "[Pruitt] is about as swampy as you get."

Pruitt's long list of controversies included using EPA resources to help secure work for his wife, lavish spending and subsidized housing courtesy of the dirty energy lobby. A full list of controversies surrounding the former EPA boss can be found in a six page letter from a group of Democratic lawmakers.

Here are a few examples of actions that forced Trump's favorite cabinet minister out of one of the most corrupt administrations in US history.
  • Pruitt met with a mining company CEO last year and just hours afterward told his staff to withdraw a plan to protect a watershed in Alaska from certain mining activities. 
  • He circumvented procedure to give big raises to two of his top aides misusing a 1996 provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Shortly after Pruitt gained access to a subsidized D.C. apartment tied to an energy company's lobbying firm the EPA green-lit that company’s pipeline project. 
  • The EPA signed a $120,000 contract with Definers Public Affairs, a communications firm run by influential Republicans that helps its clients “influence media narratives.” (After Mother Jones broke the news, the contract was cancelled).
Republicans have described Pruitt as an "embarrassment". Trump sycophant Trey Gowdy investigated the EPA chief in his capacity as Oversight Committee Chairman.

Even more egregious than his ethics controversies and financial abuses, Pruitt flouted his duties as EPA administrator by ignoring his core mandate to protect the health of Americans. As reported by the New York Times, the EPA's own data indicates that the agency no longer spends much time enforcing the remaining environmental rules. Pruitt's legacy at the EPA is about more than just environmental inaction, he is responsible for decimating hard won environmental protections.  He led assaults on clean air, he diluted water safeguards, and he stalled toxic chemical bans.

Generations to come will talk about the damage he has done.  History will remember Pruitt for his efforts to kill or weaken as many as 40 EPA rules (the New York Times reports that there are a total of 76 rules on their way out at the behest of the Trump administration). During his 16 months in office Pruitt met regularly with fossil fuel industry executives but rarely with environmental or public health groups. His tenure was defined by his advocacy on behalf of the fossil fuel industry and his legacy is his pro-polluter agenda.

Pruitt leaves the EPA having dismantled decades of environmental regulations, and having slashed staffing at the agency to levels not seen since the Reagan era. He not only eradicated climate change from the agency’s website, he tried to make climate denial official EPA policy.

The good news is that Pruitt is gone the bad news is that until a permanent replacement can be vetted by the Senate he is being replaced by his deputy Andrew Wheeler who is another fossil fuel industry paramour. Wheeler is a coal industry lobbyist, who worked for James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation's leading climate deniers.

Pruitt and Trump share a lot in common. Like his boss the former EPA head repeatedly lied to justify his actions, this includes his pretext for killing the Clean Power Plan.  In addition to outright lies he commonly misinformed the public with misleading talking points. To see a partial list of Pruitt's subterfuge click here. Pruitt also shares Trump's penchant for fake news. Both men like to attack honest reporters and they both like to share false information from climate deniers.

The former head of the EPA was a deceitful spin machine right up until the end. In classic Trump-style hypocritical double-speak Pruitt explained his departure by citing the "toxic environment" in politics.

Pruitt's War Against Science
Court Rulings Check Pruitt's Vision for the EPA
Pruitt is Destroying the EPA
Pruitt's Advocacy on Behalf of Polluters is Killing Americans
Pruitt is Purging Scientists at the EPA
Pruitt Lies to Kill the Clean Power Plan
Emails Reveal Pruitt's Anti-Regulation Industry Advocacy
Pruitt to Decimate Environmental Protections and Climate Action
Trump puts the Fox in the Henhouse: Pruitt to Head the EPA
Republicans Trying to Kill the EPA Quickly
Trump's War against the EPA has Begun

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