Fresh Ideas: Trump’s pick for head of EPA: Worst of the worst?
December 27, 2016
"Please pass along Devon Energy's thanks to Attorney General Pruitt."
This nice thank-you note from the chief lobbyist of Devon Energy — one of Oklahoma's biggest oil-and-gas companies — to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was for a letter Pruitt sent to the Environmental Protection Agency accusing federal regulators of overestimating the amount of air pollution from oil and gas drilling in Oklahoma.
Why the special thanks? As the New York Times reported in a Pulitzer-prize-winning story in 2014, the letter Pruitt sent to the EPA was actually written by Devon Energy lawyers. The Oklahoma Attorney General's staff changed only 37 words of the 1,000-word letter drafted by oil company lawyers before Pruitt signed it and sent it off to the EPA.
Pruitt has a lot of friends in oil and gas. Pruitt's campaigns for Oklahoma Attorney General have been heavily financed by the industry, including the billionaire Koch brothers' political action committee. Billionaire oilman Harold Hamm was the cochairman of Pruitt's 2013 reelection campaign.
Even some Republicans have criticized Pruitt's cozy relationship with oil and gas. David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon, said "When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice. "
I can almost see your shoulders shrugging. You are "shocked, shocked" that a Republican Attorney General in Oklahoma is in the pocket of the oil and gas industry. But what does that have to do with Nevada?
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Unfortunately, Scott Pruitt is Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
A quick background on the EPA: its role is to ensure that all Americans can enjoy clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and have their health protected from environmental and climate threats. EPA's environmental rule making is careful and painstaking, and those rules have protected families and communities across the country from acid rain, smog, and other threats to our health and environment. The EPA bases its regulatory decisions entirely on science rather than on guesses or assumptions by those who are not experts.
Pruitt, who has no scientific background, has spent his career attacking the EPA. As the New York Times reports, Pruitt "led the charge to try to dismantle our most basic clean air and water protections (like smog and mercury standards) and was the architect of years of relentless attacks on the EPA."
Pruitt also denies the reality of climate change, and currently is taking the lead in suing the EPA over the proposed Clean Power Plan rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants. It is abundantly clear that in nominating Pruitt Trump is trying to make good on his campaign promise to dismantle the EPA. Trump wants to put the fox in charge of the henhouse.
But Pruitt's nomination has to be approved by the U.S. Senate. I ask our Nevada Sens. Dean Heller and Catherine Cortez Masto: What would installing an oil-and-gas crony as head of the EPA do for Nevada?
My answer — and I hope theirs too — is that it would do nothing for our state. Nevada is well on its way to being one of the leading states in the nation in producing clean energy. State leaders say that Nevada is in a strong position to comply with the EPA's Clean Power Plan pollution reduction goals for Nevada. Recently, NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill stated, "Here in Nevada, we have nothing to fear. The State of Nevada and NV Energy are both in great shape to meet these federal compliance requirements."
So why would our senators vote to confirm a man who's seeking to bring his Oklahoma oil patch politics to a national stage?
Let us hope they don't. Scott Pruitt has nothing to offer Nevada and we will all be worse off if he is confirmed as head of the EPA.
Anne Macquarie writes about clean energy, climate change, and other environmental issues from her home in Carson City.