Dear Mr. Pruitt,
Congratulations on your confirmation last month as the United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. What a political coup that was!
Surely, no other nominee has ever faced such public opposition from hundreds of former EPA officials or provoked such passionate resistance from our nation’s most well-respected environmental experts. And the way you skirted past that court order to produce thousands of emails documenting your curiously close ties to the fossil fuel industry was truly remarkable.
So, now that you’re on the federal payroll and responsible for carrying out the EPA’s mission “to protect human health and the environment,” I am hoping that you can clear something up for me.
How the hell do you sleep at night?
I mean, the guilt from letting unanswered emails languish in my inbox jolts me awake at 4:30 a.m.
And there you are, looking chipper as ever in your meticulously curated collection of ties, while you scorn overwhelming scientific data and condemn our air, water and climate to the filth your corporate-polluter and fossil fuel buddies like to spew without “un-American” oversight plaguing the bottom line.
To see why you’re keeping so many people awake at night, let’s take a closer look at the last four weeks…
You Vowed to Dismantle the Clean Water Rule
Immediately following your Senate confirmation, you told the Wall Street Journal that you intended to withdraw the Clean Water (or “Waters of the United States”) Rule — an Obama-era regulation curbing pollution in major rivers, streams and wetlands. A mere eleven days later, President Trump signed an executive order effectively eliminating it.
Now, you’re going to place the profits of agricultural chemical companies, property developers and golf course owners (ahem, President Trump) above the basic need for clean water in communities across the country (not to mention the thousands of species that live in or otherwise depend on these waters).
The only conceivable upshot to this painfully short-sighted effort is that legal experts predict it “could take longer than a single presidential term” to effect.
You Terminated a Crucial Climate Data Collection Program
Despite methane’s significant role in warming our planet — and in turn acidifying our oceans, bleaching coral reefs, eradicating terrestrial and marine species, and melting glaciers — you stopped in its tracks a fledgling program designed to gather emission information from over 15,000 oil and gas well operators.
Apparently, a request from the attorneys general of eleven oil-friendly states (Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia) decrying the program as “onerous” and “burdensome” was enough to convince you to kick it to the curb.
You Claimed Carbon Dioxide Isn’t a “Primary Contributor” to Climate Change
In a statement that defies credulity, you claimed on national television that carbon dioxide is not a “primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” Not only is this statement demonstrably false, it also contravenes your own representations to the United States Senate during the confirmation process.
No matter how many times I hear you conservative politicians say that the science isn’t settled on anthropogenic climate change, I can’t help but think y’all have some serious chutzpah.
97 percent of climate scientists agree that warming due to human activity is occurring at an unprecedented rate. 97 percent!
And the remaining 3 percent is comprised of “skeptics” like Willie Soon, a researcher who failed to disclose more than $1.2 million dollars he received from the fossil fuel industry (apparently violating scientific journal ethical guidelines along the way).
But here’s the thing…
If your administration thinks that the science is so unsettled, wouldn’t it make sense to increase — rather than decimate — funding for climate research, especially when your Secretary of Defense warns that climate change presents a national security risk?
Here’s a scenario that follows your logic. Let’s say 97 infectious disease doctors tell you that it’s imperative you take a particular antibiotic to fight an otherwise lethal bacterial infection; but, because three other specialists — one or more of which is funded by a rival pharmaceutical company — disagree, you choose to decline the antibiotic and reject medical care altogether.
The only conceivable explanation is fossil fuel funding for your campaign coffers and Capitol Hill cronies.
You’ve Stacked the EPA With Climate Change Deniers
Both your chief of staff and deputy chief of staff are former aides to your “fellow Oklahoman and longtime friend” Senator James Inhofe — the man who literally wrote the book on climate change denial and called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” He’s also the guy who accused the EPA of “brainwashing our kids” and brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to “prove” global warming doesn’t exist.
And your likely deputy? He’s also a former Inhofe aide who’s currently a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy, the “largest underground coal mining company in America.”
You Drove Out the Veteran Head of the EPA’s Office on Environmental Justice
Mustafa Ali — who joined the EPA during George H. W. Bush’s administration and founded the agency’s Office of Environmental Justice — tendered his resignation earlier this month after nearly 25 years. Having served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, Mr. Ali cited proposed funding cuts and regulation rollbacks in a now widely circulated resignation letter.
These budgetary and policy changes will deal a huge blow to the health and well-being of impoverished communities of color across the nation — those already poised to suffer immensely from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, education budget cuts and the recent proliferation of hate crimes.
You Set the Stage to Slash Fuel-Efficiency Standards
In a move poised to harm climate and consumers but delight automakers and Big Oil, you and Trump announced your plan to backtrack on Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards. Put into place to reduce air pollution, carbon emissions and dependence on oil, these regulations were also estimated to save drivers $1.7 trillion at the pump.
So much for your president’s populist platform.
All that — and you’ve been in office just one month.
While none of it should be surprising to anyone who’s read anything about your tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General, all of it is still shocking. Here’s why:
- You’re a trial lawyer. Cases are built on admissible evidence — authenticated documentation, scientific data, expert and witness testimony. Real facts (not the alternative ones your colleagues like so much), figures and details should matter to you.
- You’re a church deacon. Admittedly, I know bagels better than the Bible, but I’m pretty sure that Jesus wouldn’t approve of fertilizer runoff dead zones, cancer alleys or skyrocketing rates of childhood asthma.
- You appear to have a lovely family. You have two young adult children, who will likely have children of their own. I can only assume that you’d like them to breathe clean air, drink safe water and live in a world where coral reefs and polar bears still exist.
That you’re able to sleep at night, Mr. Pruitt, confounds and frightens me.
But I take solace in the fact that the more you sleep, the more others will awaken.