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Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, writes Perera, "is clearly unfit and uniquely unsuited to do the job he has been entrusted to do." (Photo: AP)

Scott Pruitt Has Misled Congress on Climate Multiple Times

Liz Perera

On Thursday morning, Donald Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told CNBC that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a “primary contributor” to global warming.

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Fundamentally, of course, this statement contradicts the overwhelming scientific consensus that man is driving the climate crisis by burning fossil fuels and adding excess CO2 and other greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.  According to NASA, “Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began. This is the most important long-lived ‘forcing’ of climate change.”

The view Pruitt articulated also directly contradicts statements which he made very clearly to the Senate in at least three instances.

That Pruitt misled congress is clear. In formal written testimony (Page 122) as part of “Questions for the Record”, Pruitt certified that “I also believe the Administrator has an important role when it comes to the regulation of carbon dioxide, which I will fulfill consistent with Massachusetts v. EPA and the agency's Endangerment Finding on Greenhouse Gases respective of the applicable statutory framework established by Congress.”

Separately, in an exchange with Senator Bernie Sanders, Pruitt said “Senator, I believe that the [EPA] administrator has a very important role to perform in regulating CO2.”

By offering and affirming that the EPA Administrator has an important role in regulating carbon dioxide in light of the EPA’s Endangerment Finding, Pruitt clearly acknowledged the role CO2 plays in global warming.

But his deception goes even deeper. During separate questioning in committee Pruitt also explicitly acknowledged “That the endangerment finding is there and needs to be enforced and respected.” When pressed by Senator Markey on whether he would review or alter the finding if confirmed, Pruitt said “There is nothing that I know that would cause a review at this point.”

Pruitt clearly made the case to the Senate at the time that he had no reason to reverse the finding that CO2 poses a danger by causing climate change, whereas now he says publicly that it does not pose a danger, actively denying the role of CO2 as a dangerous climate pollutant. Pruitt’s dissembling was so thorough that back in January NPR wrote a headline saying “Pruitt Denounces Regulations and Distances Himself From Climate Change Deniers at Hearing to Lead EPA”

It’s clear from all of this that Scott Pruitt misled Congress and the American people about his intentions and beliefs as regards a core agency responsibility of regulating CO2 emissions.

For these reasons, Senators should demand that Pruitt be removed from his position -- that way he can be a fossil fuel lobbyist on his own time and not the government’s dime.

The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department, and Pruitt wants to let the climate crisis burn out of control. The EPA administrator is supposed to protect families and communities from environmental crises, but all Pruitt is willing to do is spewing corporate polluter talking points.

Pruitt is clearly unfit and uniquely unsuited to do the job he has been entrusted to do.


Liz Perera

Liz Perera is the Sierra Club's Climate Policy Director.

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