Since President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, no prospective administrator has ever fundamentally questioned science or showed broad disdain for the work of the agency. That is until Scott Pruitt’s nomination.
That’s why, for the first time in our 80-year history, the National Wildlife Federation is asking Senators from both parties to reject a cabinet nominee.
Our Federation has a long record of bipartisan support for pro-science, pro-conservation nominees; this year, we’re supporting Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior and Governor Sonny Perdue for Agriculture.
By comparison, we believe that Pruitt’s anti-science record and his sustained opposition to EPA’s mission disqualifies him from serving as Administrator and that the Senate has a responsibility to the American people to reject his nomination.
The National Wildlife Federation uses a three-part test to evaluate nominations:
1. Does the nominee support science-based decision-making?
Pruitt denies basic scientific facts and consensus, which is why Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, said “I don’t recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does.”
Pruitt has questioned whether mercury is toxic to health. He contends that climate science is “far from settled” and that “scientists continue to disagree.” This is simply not true.
We may disagree about potential solutions, but more than 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate science research demonstrates that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gases derived from human activities are the primary cause. How can Pruitt protect moose, ducks, brook trout, and countless other birds, fish and wildlife, if he won’t even acknowledge the primary cause of climate change?
2. Will the nominee uphold our nation’s environmental laws?
On his own LinkedIn, Pruitt celebrates being “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
He has questioned why EPA exists and mocked the Clean Air Act. He has sued the EPA 14 times, partnering with oil and gas companies to attack clean air and clean water protections.
He sued the EPA to block limits to toxic chemicals in the air we breathe and in the water we drink, like mercury, arsenic, and sulfur dioxide. And he has said that the EPA has no authority to regulate greenhouse gases, despite the Supreme Court holding that it does.
3. Is the nominee willing to put the interest of the American people above those of special interests?
Time and time again, Pruitt has sided with the oil and gas industry over the health of Oklahomans and residents of neighboring states.
He repeatedly used the power of his office to attack the water and air safeguards that protect our fish and wildlife, public health, and climate. Pruitt’s close relationship with industry — and the question of whether those relationships influenced his lawsuits and correspondence — should raise alarms about how EPA would operate, should he be confirmed.
Pruitt fundamentally failed our three-part test. It is abundantly clear that he does not share America’s time-honored bipartisan conservation values or a commitment to sound science. We cannot allow science to be discarded in the agency that was created specifically to protect public health and the environment.
Bill Reilly, EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush, put it this way:
“Science is the secular religion underlying everything EPA does, and one who cannot rely on it, or is determinedly contemptuous of it, cannot effectively lead the agency or serve as the country’s environmental conscience.”
We agree. We are proud to have worked with previous Republican administrations on sound policy based upon sound science.
We worked closely with President Nixon to create the EPA. We worked with Howard Baker, Ed Muskie, and John Dingell to develop and pass the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
We worked with President Reagan to confront threats to the ozone layer, and President George H.W. Bush to address acid rain and cross-state air pollution.
We worked with President George W. Bush to protect millions of acres of wetlands.
The National Wildlife Federation firmly believes that you cannot be pro-outdoors if you are anti-science.
Our six million hunters, anglers, birders, campers, and gardeners, including millions of Republicans and millions of Democrats, all share a commitment to science-based natural resource management. Our nation deserves an EPA administrator who will be a champion for improving America’s health and protecting our outdoor heritage.
Nothing in Scott Pruitt’s record suggests he will do either and therefore we respectfully request that the Senate reject his nomination.
Collin O’Mara is the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.