Pruitt lacks knowledge of science — he's going to ruin our Earth
© Screenshot

What if we could prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, including 300 in Oklahoma every year, by cleaning up our dirty power plants?

In fact, that’s what we began to accomplish last year, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set rigorous limits on mercury, arsenic, lead and numerous other types of toxic air pollution from power plants that burn coal and oil.

It wouldn’t have happened if Scott Pruitt had his way. The Oklahoma attorney general joined coal mining and power plant companies — not once, but twice — in lawsuits meant to overturn the life-saving EPA standards.


Now, having built a career trying to block the EPA from doing its job protecting our environment and health, Pruitt has been tapped by president-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE to run that very agency — or, more precisely, to run it aground.

Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee took up Pruitt’s nomination. The Senate has a duty to the American people to explore his troubling record, reject this unfit candidate and insist on a nominee who will advance the agency’s vital mission — not cripple it.

The dirty work of trying to scuttle the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — required under the Clean Air Act — is part of a pattern for Pruitt. He’s repeatedly joined with industry in lawsuits aimed at protecting the polluters – not the people. He doesn’t appear to believe in the basic purpose of the EPA. And his many years in government haven’t produced a single environmental achievement that might recommend him for the job.

He’s sided with the fossil fuel industry to try to nullify clean air safeguards that reduce power plant emissions of tiny soot particles, sulfur dioxide and pollution that causes smog. He teamed up with big polluters to try to block the Clean Water Rule that protects wetlands and streams that feed the source of drinking water for 117 million Americans. He even joined a suit to block efforts to clean up pollution that is choking the Chesapeake Bay - 1,400 miles from Oklahoma City.

Two years ago, Pruitt fired off a complaint to the EPA on his official Oklahoma attorney general letterhead, asserting that the federal agency overestimated air pollution in the state from drilling for natural gas. Pruitt’s letter, though, was actually written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of the state’s largest oil and gas producers, The New York Times reported.

The story highlighted Pruitt’s prominent role in what the paper called a “secret alliance” among energy firms, other corporations and state prosecutors scheming behind closed doors to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in court.

The plan is about cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of the U.S. share of carbon pollution driving climate change. Cutting that massive carbon footprint is the single most important action we can take to protect future generations from the growing dangers of climate change.

Pruitt claims the science behind climate disruption isn’t yet settled — a fiction pulled straight from the talking points of the coal, oil and gas industry that has fueled his political career with $300,000 in campaign contributions — and counting.

There’s nothing unsettled about this: seas are rising, deserts are widening and people are suffering at home and abroad. And it’s happening because we’ve raised the carbon dioxide level in the global atmosphere nearly 45 percent since the mid-19th Century.

To name someone who doesn’t understand that to become the nation’s top environmental steward is preposterous.

We’ve never had a nominee to head the EPA who is deeper in the pocket of America’s biggest polluters than Scott Pruitt. And we’ve never had one whose own actions betray a deeper commitment to increasing pollution of our waters and air and consigning future generations to worsening climate chaos.

Before the President-elect even takes office, the Pruitt nomination has set the new administration at odds with basic science, out of touch with the seven in ten Americans who expect action to fight climate change and out of sync with the opportunity to create millions of good-paying middle class jobs in the transition to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

And for what? A dangerous, damaging and backward-looking agenda to protect polluter profits and put the rest of us at risk. This isn’t draining the swamp: it’s enriching it.

Nobody voted in November for dirty water or air. We didn’t vote for more heart ailments and asthma attacks. We didn’t vote to walk away from American climate and clean energy leadership and leave our kids to pay the price. And we didn’t vote to put an extremist with a record of working to undermine common sense safeguards in charge of protecting our environment and health.

Rhea Suh is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group with more than 2.4 million supporters nationwide.

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.