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The confirmation hearing for Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA, begins Wednesday morning. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

500+ Groups Urge Senators: 'Use All Your Power' to Block Anti-Environment Pruitt

'Anyone that breathes air and drinks water should be aggressively opposed to this man leading the EPA,' says head of Food & Water Watch

Deirdre Fulton

More than 500 national, state, and local organizations on Tuesday announced their opposition to Donald Trump's fossil-fuel soaked nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt.

In a letter (pdf) to U.S. senators sent one day before Pruitt's confirmation hearing before the Environment and Public Works committee on Wednesday, the groups urge lawmakers "to not only vote against Pruitt's nomination, but actively use all the power of your office and position to block it. We urge you to lobby your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to oppose his nomination, to speak out in the media highlighting his egregious environmental record, and use all procedural means at your disposal to block Scott Pruitt from becoming EPA administrator."

Asserting that "[w]e could write a book on Pruitt's anti-environmental views," the signatories offer the following "highlights" of his record:

  • As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt campaigned in support of a ballot measure that would have made it virtually impossible for the state to regulate pollution caused by factory farms—pollution which poisons surrounding communities' air and drinking water. Fortunately, Oklahoma voters have the good sense to reject this measure;
  • Pruitt is a climate denier who has said that the link between human activity and climate change is "far from settled." He is part of an effort to shield Exxon and other energy companies from accountability over years of misleading the public about the science around climate change;
  • Pruitt opposes the ability of the EPA to regulate carbon as a pollutant, something that is essential to combating climate change;
  • Pruitt has opposed the EPA's Waters of the U.S. rule, which strengthened regulations aimed at protecting water from runoff pollution;
  • Pruitt even opposes protecting the environment around our national parks. In 2014, Pruitt unsuccessfully sued the EPA over its Regional Haze Rule, a law designed to foster cleaner air at national parks by reducing coal-fired power plant emissions;
  • As earthquakes caused by fracking and waste disposal have ravaged Oklahoma, Pruitt has done nothing to protect the people of his state or hold the fossil fuel industry accountable;
  • None of this should come as a surprise, given that Pruitt has accepted over $300,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

"Given Scott Pruitt's long record of insulating industrial polluters from even the most basic environmental safeguards, anyone that breathes air and drinks water should be aggressively opposed to this man leading the EPA," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director at Food & Water Watch, which spearheaded the letter. "We are putting every senator on notice: anyone who supports his nomination will have Mr. Pruitt's dreadful history of pollution and poisoning on their own hands, and we the people will hold each of them personally responsible moving forward."

The missive, signed by a wide-ranging coalition of environmental, civil rights, public health, and pro-democracy organizations, comes on the heels of another letter from 13 former heads of state environmental bureaus to Senate leaders, also calling for Pruitt's rejection as head of the EPA. In addition, last week, top Senate Democrats asked federal ethics officials for more information about Pruitt's abundant conflicts of interest, noting that "during his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt has blurred the distinction between official and political actions, often at the behest of corporations he will regulate if confirmed to lead the EPA."

All these opponents note that Pruitt spent his time as Oklahoma attorney general launching multiple legal attacks against the EPA on behalf of fossil fuel corporations. The Intercept on Tuesday delved into one such case—Pruitt's suit, filed in coordination with Murray Energy, Peabody Energy, and Southern Power Company ("all of whom donated to Pruitt and his political action committee," reporter Sharon Lerner writes), challenging the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

The cost of not implementing that rule, which sought to limit smog emissions from coal- and oil-burning power plants, would be staggering, Lerner reports:

By reducing CO2 emissions, the rule would avert significant costs from climate-related incidents, such as floods, droughts, rising sea levels, and damage to coastlines. And because smog and soot cause illnesses and sometimes even death, limiting emissions can amount to between $120 and $280 billion in health savings annually.

That startling sum represents the cost of vast human suffering, including:

  • 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma
  • 1.8 million days of missed work and school
  • 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, and
  • Up to 34,000 premature deaths

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 ruled against Pruitt and his fossil-fuel cronies, "[b]ut as head of the EPA, he would be in a position to undermine this rule and others that would save both money and lives," Lerner writes.

And that's why so many people are fighting his nomination.

"The political revolution relies on those who fight for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice—and there will be no environmental justice if Scott Pruitt is in charge of the EPA," said Shannon Jackson, executive director of Our Revolution, which signed onto Tuesday's letter. "Pruitt's disturbing denial of science and close financial ties to the fossil fuel industry make him completely unfit to hold the position—and would put the future of our planet and the lives of future generations at risk. Our country deserves a leader who understands that we have a moral obligation to reduce emissions and invest in renewable energy—not the man who has sued the EPA over their Clean Power Plan. We will fight this appointment like our lives depend on it—because they do."

Pruitt's hearing begins Wednesday at 10am.

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