A deafening uproar has greeted President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt to head the US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. The announcement was made in a press release on Thursday December 8, 2016.
In the press release, Trump’s transition team, in very lofty terms, described Pruitt as “an expert in Constitutional law who brings a deep understanding of the impact of regulations on both the environment and the economy.” The statement added that Pruitt “will reverse the trend of obnoxious, anti-job, anti-farmers and anti-business policies of the EPA and would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”
Industry watchers see this move as a precursor to fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise to challenge and undo President Obama’s climate change and environmental legacy once he takes office. Dissenting voices against Pruitt’s nomination have been loud and clear, also bearing in mind the President-Elect’s tough stance and near denial of the science of man’s contributions to climate change, and its impact on the global economy. Who leads the EPA is crucial because the Agency coordinates the government’s environmental policies and sets the tone for the priorities of the US government as far as the environment is concerned. The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA or simply, EPA) is the equivalent of Nigeria’s National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA.
Back in May in “National Review”, a semi-monthly magazine, Mr. Pruitt wrote: “Global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”
Critics say Priutt has potentially compromising close ties with power brokers in the oil and gas industry, and is one of the opponents of President Obama’s centerpiece climate policy, the Clean Power Plan. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt is said to have pursued various controversial litigations to curtail the EPA’s powers and hinder its works. Some say, left to Pruitt, the EPA should and would not exist, and that choosing a man like him to run an organization whose existence he does not believe in would be counterproductive.
Critics such as Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and interest groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDF and the Environmental Defense Fund, EDF, have been unequivocal in their rejection of Pruitt’s choice. Rhea Suh, NRDF’s president was quoted as saying “over the past five years, Pruitt has used his position as Oklahoma’s top prosecutor to sue the EPA in a series of attempts to deny Americans the benefits of reducing mercury, arsenic, and other toxins from the air we breathe; cutting smog that can cause asthma attacks; and protecting our wetlands and streams.” While on his own part, Fred Krupp, EDF’s president said “Our country needs — and deserves — an EPA administrator who is guided by science, who respects America’s environmental laws, and who values protecting the health and safety of all Americans ahead of the lobbying agenda of special interests.” However, should the President-elect stick with his choice of Pruitt, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has promised to “use the full power” of his office to wage a legal battle to “compel” enforcement of environmental laws under Trump.
But in a statement released by Pruitt in response to his nomination, he heartily accepted the nomination but used the occasion to hit back at his critics saying: “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”
To allay the fears of industry watchers and the international community, Trump added in the press release that “My administration “strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity.”
wastesmart.org will continue to closely watch and responsibly report on developments in the US environment sector which are likely to impact on global response to environmental issues such as climate change and environmental governance.