NPR is reporting that Donald J. Trump is going to appoint Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A. Pruitt has been serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General where he’s been at the forefront of fighting President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. An open climate change denier and buddy of the oil and gas industry, everyone should be really worried about him.
The New York Times reports, “While he was Oklahoma attorney general, oil and gas companies drafted letters for Mr. Pruitt to send, on state stationery, to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, outlining the economic hardship of the environmental rules.” Mr. Pruitt is primed to take the EPA off the beat turn it into a rubber stamp for big polluters. On oil, gas, coal, petrochemical, agricultural, some manufacturing, and conjoint industries, that’s really bad news.
In too many cases industries fundamentally fight against the public’s interest. This has been shown time and time again. We know that “doubt” was the industry’s product to undermine regulation of tobacco because it causes cancer. We know that the chemical industry systematically tried to circumvent regulation on DDT, CFCs, and sulfur dioxide pollution that causes acid rain. They have assaninated people’s characters, performed contrarian research, worked with undue influence on elected officials and created front groups to do all of it. They have done the same thing with climate change, they’ve tried to ruin the personal and professional lives of climate scientists like Michael Mann and Ben Santer.
And they’ve built and echo chamber of contrarianism. They have think tanks, front groups, and fake or bought scientists who feed non-peer-reviewed junk science to hyper-ideological media for the public and to politicians and appointed enforcement officers. Of course there are the campaign contributions, plush perks, and the possibility of a job for acquiescent and obsequious politicians once they leave office.
These folks collude–legally sometimes, fundamentally dishonestly often, and on some cases corruptly–to strip regulations and maximize their profits. They remove the ability to ask questions and gather data about their actions. In this world, ignorance is strength. It feeds the strength of the few by weakening the rest of us. They define their property as special and rig the rules the public’s property private property. But they work to place the burden of pollution on the public either directly with tax subsidies or privately by making us pay for health problems that arise from, say, high concentrations of volatile organic compounds or arsenic in the water.
Meanwhile, many of these people fight to limit taxation, impact fees, permitting, or fine structures. The costs incurred through illness and environmental damage are put upon the public who have less recourse. When we the people have less and less with which to fight them, we ultimately become less informed, less able to access the system, and sicker. We have laws yanked or unenforced and less money for paying those who can use the law to protect the public. With less generally shared power and fewer shared resources, we the people flail and shout, but too often simply acquiesce. As our legislators and regulating bodies are captured, we find “a surplus of passivity and reactivity, and a deficit of curiosity and creativity” according to Scott Hewitt writing for Emory Corporate Governance and Accountability Review. If you live in Pennsylvania or West Virginia where extractive industries have hijacked the legislatures and regulators, this will sound familiar. It’s a vicious cycle. And it needs to stop.
Pruitt has both a net and whip to tame and restrain the EPA. Given his history attacking the Clean Power Plan, aligning with those decrying the Obama administration for a “war on coal”,” and denying climate change we should expect he will turn the whip and the net on the EPA. It’s a sick kind of circus where he will let the most dangerous animals just about anywhere they want, even if it’s in the audience. Maybe not all of it. Energy CEOs and the wealthy probably won’t see industrial pollution rise in their neighborhoods. But the rural folks who just voted this guy in and the public that wants clean wide open spaces?
When Trump said the system is rigged. He was right. But he and his buddies are the ones rigging it. And he just chumped us big time. Pruitt’s about to let the tigers break free. That should wake you the frack up.