This past Friday, Feb. 17, former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
Intense opposition to Pruitt’s nomination came from scores of environmental groups, current and former employees of the EPA and all but two Senate Democrats.
To ensure that the proceedings received as much attention as possible, the Senate remained in session through Thursday evening and even into Friday morning to debate Pruitt’s confirmation.
Scott Pruitt is a 48-year-old Republican lawyer who sued the EPA 14 times during his six year tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
His supporters insist that Pruitt’s confirmation is a positive outcome, declaring that the lawyer is the perfect choice for scaling back regulations which they believe hold the nation’s economy back.
“The EPA has made life hard for families all across America,” proclaimed John Barrasso, a Republican Senator from Wyoming who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The agency has issued punishing regulations that caused many hardworking Americans to lose their jobs. Pruitt will bring much-needed change.”
While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt attempted to bring about much of the changes that Barrasso discussed.
In one legal challenge, Pruitt sued the EPA in an effort to fight against regulations that included limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. In another, he brought suit over the EPA’s recent expansion of bodies of water that must be regulated under the Clean Water Act. The federal regulation would have forced many companies to clean up polluted wastewater.
Therefore, while the specific grievances against the EPA have varied in these lawsuits, all of them challenged the agency’s regulations in some way or another.
It is more than a little ironic that Pruitt now oversees the agency that he once fought against in court and many environmentalists have noted this fact when expressing their wholehearted disapproval of his confirmation.
“Pruitt is the worst pick ever confirmed to lead the EPA,” commented Rhea Suh, who is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We’ll use every tool in the kit to stop him from harming our air and water, endangering our communities and surrendering our kids to climate catastrophe.”
Other detractors have called attention to Pruitt’s skepticism of climate change, stating that in the past he has questioned the overwhelming evidence which points to the conclusion that the earth is increasingly warming and that humans are mostly to blame.
Pruitt’s rejection of hard-won evidence is cause for enormous concern.
While it is entirely permissible for Mr. Pruitt to disagree with the EPA over the federal government’s role in tackling issues related to the environment, it is inexcusable for him to even begin to question climate change.
Virtually all scientists regard climate change as a real and deeply troubling phenomenon that human beings have principally caused.
Indeed, a number of experts who have studied the issue now see our response to climate change as one of the most important decisions we as the human race will make in the 21st century.
In order to dispel any uncertainty, Pruitt in the coming days must unequivocally state that climate change exists and that it is one of the most pressing issues that America and the world currently faces.
The unprecedented rollback of EPA regulations that will likely take place during Pruitt’s time in charge will be bad enough, but the American people deserve better than a man whose views are at odds with established facts.