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EPA no longer guarantees protection for the environment

by Emma Frank - Staff Writer
Mon, Feb 20th 2017 10:45 pm
Photo taken from Vice News on Twitter

President  Donald  Trump's newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt (above) has caused EPA employees to rally against him.  With ties to oil companies and an unclear stance on climate change, some are questioning Pruitt's efficiency.
Photo taken from Vice News on Twitter President Donald Trump's newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt (above) has caused EPA employees to rally against him. With ties to oil companies and an unclear stance on climate change, some are questioning Pruitt's efficiency.

 Things aren't looking good with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt leading the EPA. According to the BBC article, "Scott Pruitt: Controversial Trump environment nominee sworn in," the decision comes after an overwhelming amount of opposition from Democrats, environmental groups and the United States Environmental Protection Agency alike. 

Democrats point to Pruitt's relationship with big oil, an affiliation marked by consistent email communication with oil and gas executives. Democrats had boycotted an earlier vote over his unwillingness to show these emails. Environmental groups see him as someone who is "lukewarm" on the present threat of climate change. Although Pruitt has in no way agreed with President Donald Trump that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese, he is skeptical of how much we can blame ourselves for climate change. Most EPA staff members have opposed the pick, with hundreds of former EPA staff members writing against his appointment. Some even called him an "unqualified extremist."

The EPA hasn't stopped there though. According to the New York Times' article,  "EPA workers try to block Pruitt in show of defiance", by Coral Davenport, EPA employees were calling their senators, urging them to vote against him on Friday. They said the calls were a last-ditch effort to stop Pruitt's appointment. This behavior is far from the norm. 

 "I can't think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this," Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, James A. Thurbe said.

The Chicago EPA recently held an anti-Pruitt protest. 

"We plan on more demonstrations, more rallies," EPA's union president, John O'Grady, said. "I think you will see the employees' union reaching out to N.G.O.s and having alliances with them." 

Some possible non-governmental organizations he may be referring to is Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club. Although their efforts to stop his appointment proved unsuccessful, the opposition to Pruitt is evident and tremendous and isn't likely to change while he is in office. According to Davenport's article, the former EPA administrator during the first term of President George W. Bush, Christine Todd Whitman, predicts a major standoff between employees and their politically appointed bosses. 

"What it means is that it's going to be a bloodbath when Pruitt gets in there," Whitman said. 

She went on to explain that while Pruitt cannot legally fire longtime employees, he can strike back by switching their positions around, limiting their influence and finding like-minded individuals to take their place.

The EPA has good reason to object Pruitt's leadership. Pruitt has a history of being quite critical toward the EPA. On the "About the Attorney General" page found on the Oklahoma state website, ok.gov, Pruitt is described in as "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda." 

Moreover, Davenport explains in his article that Pruitt has sued the EPA a minimum of 14 times. These lawsuits have all been filed jointly with some of the U.S.'s largest fossil fuel companies. 

The EPA's future is undoubtedly grim. Davenport explains that much of what many consider to be huge progress done by the EPA during the Obama administration, like the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule, is expected to be dismantled. What's more, the fear of an EPA dissolution is very real.

"I pray they don't dismantle the EPA," O'Grady said.

According to the BBC article, Republicans view the appointment as a much-needed change to the EPA. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, like many Republicans — including Pruitt himself — has accused the agency of "federal overreach, unlawful rulemaking and duplicative red tape." 

Pruitt is viewed as someone who will return the EPA to its core objectives and hand back the individual power of the states the which the federal government has     "wrongfully" taken away.

It may sound good to some to loosen federal oversight and give more power to the states, but when it comes to environmental issues, this may be the worst thing to do. This is because of the scientific knowledge lacking from both the general population and many government leaders.

So what can Brockport students do in response to the alarming Pruitt pick?

We can start by tracking his proposals carefully, calling up or writing to the offices of our Senators and Representatives to share our thoughts. We can call or write to the EPA itself, we can also mark our calendars to attend the Climate March in Rochester, on Saturday, April 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can find the event, officially called the "People's Climate Movement — Rochester" on Facebook.

The EPA is necessary to effectively protect the environment and human health. Without proper leadership, we can expect to see detrimental environmental issues ignored or improperly addressed. mfran8@brockport.edu