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We’re Ignoring the Biggest Pruitt Scandal: He’s Making Pollution Worse

Since Pruitt’s LinkedIn profile calls him the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” I guess he’s just doing his job.

"Pruitt has made it easier for power plants to avoid upgrading to cleaner equipment."(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

"Pruitt has made it easier for power plants to avoid upgrading to cleaner equipment."(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It’s hard to look away from the scandals engulfing EPA chief Scott Pruitt. The guy dined with a cardinal accused of sexual abuse and demoted employees who disagreed with him, just to scratch the surface. The bigger issue, though, is that he keeps protecting polluters instead of the environment.

Pruitt has made it easier for power plants to avoid upgrading to cleaner equipment, a new analysis from Rachel Leven and Fatima Bhojani at the Center for Public Integrity shows. That leaves Americans breathing dirtier air.

And even bigger changes are ahead for the New Source Review, the EPA program requiring companies to use up-to-date pollution controls. Here’s what we know:

  • CPI reports that 145 coal plants lacking pollution controls put out 580,000 total tons of sulfur dioxide last year, a pollutant that contributes to asthma and other breathing problems. While an EPA loophole lets coal plants built before 1978 get away with that, 38 of the 145 plants were built after ’78.
  • The Obama-era EPA cracked down on coal plants, forcing them to retrofit their factories and cut down on pollution. In Pruitt’s first year, those demands dropped to just 12 percent of what was done under Obama.
  • Ol’ Scotty is planning another gift for big polluters: an overhaul of the New Source Review. He’s already made a couple of tweaks, like asking regulators not to double-check companies’ pollution estimates. An EPA document last year argued for reforming the program, calling it a potential “burden.”

You know what’s also a burden? Air pollution, which isn’t really improving in the U.S. these days. But since Pruitt’s LinkedIn profile calls him the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” I guess he’s just doing his job.

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Kate Yoder

Kate Yoder is a news editor .

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