In the coming days, the Senate will consider Trump nominee Scott Pruitt for the role of administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As EPA head, Pruitt would be in charge of
enforcing the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act that protect the health of our nation’s outdoors and resources.
Yet, if confirmed, Pruitt presents a threat to our country’s quality of life and health, especially the health of kids.
“And I also know,” President Nixon famously said at Billy Graham’s East Tennessee Crusade, “that of all the nations in the world, this is the one country where a young person knows that not only do we have the power, but we have the ability to clean up the air and clean up the water and provide better jobs and better opportunity and all these things for our people.
“And that is because we are so fortunate to be so rich in those things that are material. … I want the air to be clean, and it will be clean. I want the water to be pure, and it will be pure.”
The United States in 1970, the time of that speech, was by far the biggest industrial economy in the world. As a consequence, we also had the biggest output of industrial waste. The U.S. government went on to create the EPA to enforce better corporate citizen behavior on American industry with these crucial laws that Americans, young and old, demanded.
Nixon’s pledge did not go unfulfilled, and today Americans can fish and swim, and know that the water they drink and the food and fish they eat aren’t loaded up with industrial-waste chemicals.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Pruitt maintained that rules mattered. For Pruitt, the rule of law’s importance is more than academic or legal. According to him, the rule of law is important for “ensuring good outcomes.”
But Pruitt’s history with rules and regulations indicate that an EPA under his leadership would not have good outcomes for Americans.
Scott Pruitt’s rule book for policy making relies on deep ties to the oil and gas industry. According to the New York Times, Pruitt received more than $350,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries; and as a leader in the Republican Attorney General Association, Pruitt raised at least $3.5 million more.
Pruitt is not blind to his closeness with oil and gas companies. In fact, it is an essential part of his work ethic and his worldview on “representative government.”
Because of his coziness to the oil and gas industry, Pruitt has built his career on being a crony for the industry and cannot be trusted to represent and protect the interests of the American people.
Pruitt consistently has stood on the side of polluters and against the health of the public by fighting the EPA rules that have protected Americans for years. For example, Pruitt has filed at least eight lawsuits against EPA rules regarding public health and limits on pollutants ranging from mercury to carbon.
Scott Pruitt also has opposed oil- and gas-drilling rules limiting methane and toxic pollution—rules that are essential to keeping Americans safe and healthy.
Pruitt has even gone as far to dispute the Clean Air Act, the foundation for the EPA’s rule making and a critically important piece of legislation in protecting our health.
As a lifelong North Dakota who makes a living from the land, it has been difficult to watch my home state be polluted by industrial pollution from the oil industry, an industry Pruitt has steadfastly defended.
If confirmed, Scott Pruitt likely would work to give polluters a free pass, and this is not something I or any other North Dakotan should stand for.
We Americans know that we have laws to prevent air and water pollution. We know that the water we drink is safe, and the air we breathe is clean. We know this only because that’s the way it is, and we take it for granted.
Scott Pruitt poses a threat to our safe drinking water and clean air. That is why Pruitt should not be put in charge of the very agency and laws that the people of the U.S. demanded to keep our country livable.
-Todd Leake is an active member of several organizations, including Dakota Resource Council, the North Dakota Farmers Union and the Sierra Club, for which he has chaired the Dacotah Chapter.