Three Examples Show Pruitt is Unfit to Head EPA

by S. Tom Bond on January 19, 2017

CO2 Levels & Surface Temperature

Pruitt’s EPA Lawsuits Are Worse Than You Think

From an Article by Ken Kimmell, Union of Concerned Scientists, January 17, 2017

One well-reported thing about Scott Pruitt, President-elect Trump‘s nominee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, is his penchant for filing lawsuits to block the EPA from enforcing clean air, clean water and climate regulations, rather than suing polluters in his own state of Oklahoma.

This alone ought to provide ample grounds for rejecting his nomination. But a closer look at these lawsuits and the legal arguments Pruitt has advanced (or signed onto) tells an even more disturbing story. The legal arguments are disingenuous, often unprincipled and extreme, and display an unfortunate strategy of saying just about anything to win a case.

Consider these three examples.

Pruitt Takes on Climate Scientists: The 2010 Lawsuit Challenging the EPA’s “Endangerment” Finding

In 2009, the EPA made a long overdue, and wholly unremarkable finding that greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels may endanger public health and welfare. In this finding, the EPA acknowledged the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community and the multiple lines of independent evidence supporting this conclusion.

While the finding broke no new ground scientifically, it was important legally: when the EPA finds that a pollutant endangers public health or welfare, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate sources of that pollutant. In this case, that meant power plants, cars, trucks and other sources that combust coal, oil and natural gas.

To stop such regulation in its tracks, Scott Pruitt filed a lawsuit to overturn the endangerment finding, which he and his fellow litigants characterized as “arbitrary and capricious.” Believe it or not, Pruitt’s primary argument was that the EPA should not have relied upon the multiple reports on climate change issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (established by the United Nations which synthesizes the work of thousands of scientists), the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) (a Bush administration body of 13 federal agencies that issued 21 reports on climate change)vand the National Research Council (NRC) (the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences).

Pruitt’s legal brief never quite explains what is wrong with relying upon the world’s most prominent experts, but it claimed that the EPA in effect wrongly delegated its decision-making to these bodies.

Here are the rather sharp words the court used when it unanimously dismissed this claim:

This argument is little more than a semantic trick. EPA simply did here what it and other decision makers often must do to make a science-based judgment: it sought out and reviewed existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted. It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of “syntheses” of individual studies and research. Even individual studies and research papers often synthesize past work in an area and then build upon it. This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question. [Page 27]

Take a moment to digest this: the person nominated to head the EPA sued that agency because it relied upon the work of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists when making a finding regarding the most important scientific question of our lifetime—whether humans are causing global warming.

Pruitt’s Lawsuits to Block Mercury Reductions Using a Rigged Cost-Benefit Analysis

Mercury has long been known to be one of the most potent neurotoxins: ingestion of even very small amounts can have devastating effects, particularly on children. Coal and oil-fired power plants are responsible for more than 50 percent of the mercury emissions in the U.S., which travel long distances and deposit in water bodies, leading to ingestion by fish and humans who consume fish. There is effective technology that many power plants use to control mercury and other toxic pollutants, but approximately forty percent of existing power plants do not use it.

In 1990 Congress amended the Clean Air Act to specifically authorize the EPA to address mercury emissions (and other air toxics), but no progress was made due to EPA delays and litigation. In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a rule to cut mercury emissions from power plants.

The rule required approximately 40 percent of existing power plants to install the same proven controls that the other 60 percent had already adopted. The EPA estimated that it would avert up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year.

Scott Pruitt and others launched a lawsuit to prevent the EPA from cutting mercury and toxic air pollutants from power plants. He scored an initial victory on a technicality—the EPA had failed to consider cost of regulation at the preliminary stage when it was considering whether to regulate mercury. (I call this a technicality, because the EPA did perform a formal cost benefit analysis at the later stage when it issued the regulation).

The EPA subsequently complied with the court order and used an updated analysis to support the rule. The analysis showed “monetized” benefits of between $37-90 billion versus a cost of $9 billion.

Unsatisfied, Pruitt filed a second lawsuit, this time taking aim at the cost benefit analysis. As was the case with the endangerment finding, Pruitt’s attack led with an absurd argument—this time about cost benefit analysis.

When the EPA tallied up the costs of the regulation, it included direct costs, like the cost of installing the pollution control, and indirect costs, like higher electricity prices. Similarly, when the EPA calculated the benefits of the regulation, it considered direct benefits, like improved public health from mercury reduction, but also indirect benefits, like reductions in other pollutants such as smog and sulfur dioxide because the pollution control technology used for mercury also reduces these pollutants.


See also:


"I will not vote for Pruitt" -- Sen. Sanders

‘Anyone that breathes air and drinks water should be aggressively opposed to this man leading the EPA,’ says head of Food & Water Watch

From an Article by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, January 17, 2017

More than 500 national, state, and local organizations on Tuesday announced their opposition to Donald Trump’s fossil-fuel soaked nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt.

In a letter (pdf) to U.S. senators sent one day before Pruitt’s confirmation hearing before the Environment and Public Works committee on Wednesday, the groups urge lawmakers “to not only vote against Pruitt’s nomination, but actively use all the power of your office and position to block it. We urge you to lobby your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to oppose his nomination, to speak out in the media highlighting his egregious environmental record, and use all procedural means at your disposal to block Scott Pruitt from becoming EPA administrator.”

Asserting that “[w]e could write a book on Pruitt’s anti-environmental views,” the signatories offer the following “highlights” of his record:

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt campaigned in support of a ballot measure that would have made it virtually impossible for the state to regulate pollution caused by factory farms—pollution which poisons surrounding communities’ air and drinking water.

>> Fortunately, Oklahoma voters have the good sense to reject this measure;
>> Pruitt is a climate denier who has said that the link between human activity and climate change is “far from settled.” He is part of an effort to shield Exxon and other energy companies from accountability over years of misleading the public about the science around climate change;
>> Pruitt opposes the ability of the EPA to regulate carbon as a pollutant, something that is essential to combating climate change;
>> Pruitt has opposed the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule, which strengthened regulations aimed at protecting water from runoff pollution;
>> Pruitt even opposes protecting the environment around our national parks. In 2014, >> Pruitt unsuccessfully sued the EPA over its Regional Haze Rule, a law designed to foster cleaner air at national parks by reducing coal-fired power plant emissions;
>> As earthquakes caused by fracking and waste disposal have ravaged Oklahoma,
>> Pruitt has done nothing to protect the people of his state or hold the fossil fuel industry accountable;

None of this should come as a surprise, given that Pruitt has accepted over $300,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

“Given Scott Pruitt’s long record of insulating industrial polluters from even the most basic environmental safeguards, anyone that breathes air and drinks water should be aggressively opposed to this man leading the EPA,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director at Food & Water Watch, which spearheaded the letter. “We are putting every senator on notice: anyone who supports his nomination will have Mr. Pruitt’s dreadful history of pollution and poisoning on their own hands, and we the people will hold each of them personally responsible moving forward.”

The missive, signed by a wide-ranging coalition of environmental, civil rights, public health, and pro-democracy organizations, comes on the heels of another letter from 13 former heads of state environmental bureaus to Senate leaders, also calling for Pruitt’s rejection as head of the EPA. In addition, last week, top Senate Democrats asked federal ethics officials for more information about Pruitt’s abundant conflicts of interest, noting that “during his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt has blurred the distinction between official and political actions, often at the behest of corporations he will regulate if confirmed to lead the EPA.”

All these opponents note that Pruitt spent his time as Oklahoma attorney general launching multiple legal attacks against the EPA on behalf of fossil fuel corporations. The Intercept on Tuesday delved into one such case—Pruitt’s suit, filed in coordination with Murray Energy, Peabody Energy, and Southern Power Company (“all of whom donated to Pruitt and his political action committee,” reporter Sharon Lerner writes), challenging the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

The cost of not implementing that rule, which sought to limit smog emissions from coal- and oil-burning power plants, would be staggering, Lerner reports:

By reducing CO2 emissions, the rule would avert significant costs from climate-related incidents, such as floods, droughts, rising sea levels, and damage to coastlines. And because smog and soot cause illnesses and sometimes even death, limiting emissions can amount to between $120 and $280 billion in health savings annually.

That startling sum represents the cost of vast human suffering, including:

>> 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma
>> 1.8 million days of missed work and school
>> 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, and
>> Up to 34,000 premature deaths

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 ruled against Pruitt and his fossil-fuel cronies, “[b]ut as head of the EPA, he would be in a position to undermine this rule and others that would save both money and lives,” Lerner writes.

And that’s why so many people are fighting his nomination.

“The political revolution relies on those who fight for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice—and there will be no environmental justice if Scott Pruitt is in charge of the EPA,” said Shannon Jackson, executive director of Our Revolution, which signed onto Tuesday’s letter. “Pruitt’s disturbing denial of science and close financial ties to the fossil fuel industry make him completely unfit to hold the position—and would put the future of our planet and the lives of future generations at risk. Our country deserves a leader who understands that we have a moral obligation to reduce emissions and invest in renewable energy—not the man who has sued the EPA over their Clean Power Plan. We will fight this appointment like our lives depend on it—because they do.”

Pruitt’s hearing began January 18th at 10 am.  See also:


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