Thursday, February 23, 2017

New EPA Head Scott Pruitt: The Fox Guarding the Hen House

Last week this page looked at how the new administration - both the White House and Congress - was attacking human health and environmental protection. At that writing, Scott Pruitt was the designated nominee to become EPA Administrator. On February 17th Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate in a 52-46, largely party line, vote.

The old cliche of "the fox guarding the hen house" could not be more applicable. As Attorney General for the fossil fuel-dependent dust bowl state of Oklahoma, Pruitt repeatedly sued the EPA to block the very health and environmental protections he is now charged with implementing. Can we say "conflict of interest?" Of course we can.

The vote, by the way, was accelerated by Republican leadership to ensure it occurred before court-ordered release of thousands of emails documented Scott Pruitt's collusion with fossil fuel lobbyists. And in fact that is what the now-released emails document.

Anyone who knows how lobbyists work will not be surprised that Scott Pruitt routinely copy-and-pasted language written by fossil fuel lobbyists onto his official Oklahoma letterhead. He also used lobbyist-provided text and talking points in public presentations.

These assertions of "working in the public interest," which is the job public officials like Scott Pruitt accept in taking their oath of office (usually with their hand on the Bible and under legal duty not to perjure themselves), are a violation of public trust when you know your intention is to work solely for the corporate interests of those who are contributing millions of dollars to your campaign. This is the case for Scott Pruitt. He lied to the people of Oklahoma, as did Senators James Inhofe and James Lankford, all of whom take oaths to serve their constituents but really serve only the gas and oil industries that own them while further eroding the health and economic futures of Oklahomans.

In Pruitt's initial address to the staff at the EPA he not once mentioned climate change or other critical functions of his Agency. Instead he promised to favor the interests of the corporations. This is in direct violation of the laws under which Congress requires EPA to work.

In that address Pruitt stated that "regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate." That is utterly false. Regulators exist to regulate the industries that have proven not to be trustworthy regulating themselves. The EPA exists to protect human health and the environment, not to protect the profit margins of the corporations who pollute. The EPA and all federal agencies must implement the laws that Congress passes. They are obligated by law and compelled by the judiciary to act when they don't act enough.

So what will happen with the fox running the hen house? Quite likely the hens will notice. In the past when Republican presidents tried to endanger public health by putting in charge people whose personal mission was to eliminate the viability of the agency they were given the professional mission of running, the law kept them from doing it. The laws that EPA is required to implement remain, and any attempt to repeal them will be noticed. Do Republicans believe the American people will not notice that Republicans are repealing the Clean Air Act? The Clean Water Act? The Endangered Species Act? The various human health protection acts?

All Americans must be vigilant to the actions of the current Republican Administration and current Republican Congress (and likewise at the State and Local levels). They have made it clear they care nothing about their own constituents and only about the corporations and lobbyists who finance their campaigns.

There is a reason lobbyists write legislation, write talking points, write text. Because they know politicians like Scott Pruitt are willing to copy-and-paste those talking points onto official government letterhead and lie to their constituents. Politicians like Scott Pruitt are willing to violate the public trust and oath of office solely to line their own pockets. And that should disgust every constituent living in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and every other state in the United States.

It's up to Oklahomans to stand up against the dishonesty of the Pruitt's, Inhofes, Cruzes, and Rubios. It's up to all Americans to stand up against the dishonesty of the newly installed Pruitt at EPA and his corporate compadres being foisted upon all public protection agencies.