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Republicans have so corrupted EPA, Americans can only save it in the voting booth

Posted on 30 April 2018 by dana1981

Like Donald Trump and the rest of his administration, Scott Pruitt has been caught up in so many scandals that it becomes impossible to focus on any single act of corruption. It’s difficult to focus on the damage Pruitt is doing to the environment and public health when seemingly every day there’s a new scandal related to his illegal $43,000 phone booth, or use of Safe Water Drinking Act funds to give two staffers a total of $85,000 in raises (and lying about it), or his sweetheart deal on a condo rental from a lobbyist’s wife (and lying about having met with that lobbyist), or wasting taxpayer funds on first class air travel and military jets, and a nearly $3m per year security detail, and bulletproof car seat covers, and a bulletproof desk, and so on.

Lisa Friedman@LFFriedman

Number of federal investigations into Scott Pruitt has now risen to 11. Reps. Beyer & Lieu say EPA inspector general will take up an inquiry into the $50-a-night condo rental from the wife of an energy lobbyist.

But while Pruitt’s unprecedented corruption is staggering and would have resulted in his firing long ago in any other presidential administration, the damage Pruitt is doing to public and environmental health is a far greater scandal yet. As George W. Bush’s former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman wrote in the scathing explanation for why TIME included Pruitt as one of its 100 most influential people this year,

If his actions continue in the same direction, during Pruitt’s term at the EPA the environment will be threatened instead of protected, and human health endangered instead of preserved, all with no long-term benefit to the economy.

Scott Pruitt is terrible at his job

Lately it’s been difficult to remember that EPA’s mission is supposed to be “to protect human health and the environment.” As Christine Todd Whitman alluded, Scott Pruitt has done everything in his power to instead endanger public and environmental health. He’s loosened a litany of regulations to allow more air and water and carbon pollution.

Last week, Pruitt implemented a new policy that makes it much more difficult for EPA to use science to create regulations that would protect public health. It’s a policy straight out of the tobacco playbook. In fact, junk science blogger Steve Milloy, who first advocated for this policy change while working for the tobacco industry before shifting to the fossil fuel industry’s payroll, called Pruitt’s announcement “one of my proudest achievements.” As Milloy told the New Yorker,

I do have a bias. I’m all for the coal industry, the fossil fuel industry. Wealth is what makes people happy, not pristine air, which you’ll never get.

Wealth over health – it’s a perfect summary of today’s GOP platform. Quite simply, considering scientific evidence in crafting regulations does not favor the tobacco or fossil fuel industries, and so they have long sought to curtail its use. In Pruitt, polluters have finally found an ally who’s willing to stifle science in order to maximize their profits.

And the day after he testified that EPA was “not at present” planning to revoke California’s ability to set its own vehicle emissions standards, EPA announced a plan to do exactly that. That will trigger a legal battle between EPA and Californiathat won’t make automakers happy, but doubtless will please the fossil fuel industry. Fortunately, legal experts think Pruitt’s plan is “legally indefensible.” That would be par for the course for Pruitt, who’s been so eager to roll back environmental protections that his plans often don’t hold up in court.

Republicans in Congress don’t care

Few Republicans in power have called for Pruitt to resign. That’s because, as Oliver Milman wrote for the Guardian, despite Pruitt’s unprecedented level of corruption, they support his “deregulation agenda.” At last week’s congressional hearing, Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) summed up the GOP stance perfectly:

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Comments 1 to 11:

  1. Nuccitelli brings up this important point: Pruitt is being enabled by fossil-fueled GOP congresscritters, and wouldn't last a day without their support. Also, I was stunned by Milloy's statement: "Wealth is what makes people happy, not pristine air."  My surprise was because I'd just read "The missing maths: the human cost of fossil fuels" on Skeptical Science last week, which included this:  "The EPA estimates that the U.S. Clean Air Amendments cost $65bn to implement, but will have yielded a benefit of almost $2tn by 2020 in avoided health costs."  As sanity might have suggested to anyone but Milloy, the pursuit of pristine air is quite compatible with wealth creation.

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  2. Scott Pruitt has other devious and insidious proposals as follows. Briefly, much of the original research on the effects of fossil fuels on human health used confidential health records of thousands of people, for obvious and legitimate reasons, and Pruitt is trying to attack the science on the basis that the science was 'hidden' because the records are 'confidential', which is of course absurd, but shows the astonishing extent he is prepared to go. It's just not normal human behaviour.

    Most of us understand wealth creation and air quality are indeed not mutually exclusive, and have to exist in some sort of equal balance. In fact, purifying exhaust emisssions and the like is about creating the sorts of technologies that filter air or make engines more efficient and this product development in turn creates jobs and shareholder value, and this is in fact wealth creation. It just gives us clean air,  as well as other goals like cars that go fast. Most normal people want both.

    All the wealth in the world can't fix lung diseases. There's still no real cure for many of these. 

    Every conservative and Republican in America shares some responsibility for this current mess.

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  3. You know you're doing a bad job on protecting the environment and dealing with climate change when Bush era officials are critical of you.

    NASA Reaches for Muzzle as Renowned Climate Scientist Speaks Out

    "Dr. James E. Hansen, the top climate scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), believes that the world has little time to waste in reversing its current trend toward global warming. In late 2005, however, Dr. Hansen's ability to voice his concerns about global warming was severely compromised by NASA public affairs officials. After he called on the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a December 2005 lecture, Dr. Hansen found that NASA officials began reviewing and filtering public statements and press interviews in an effort to limit his ability (as well as that of other government scientists) to publicly express scientific opinions that clashed with the Bush administration’s views on global warming."

    Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming

    "A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

    In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports."

    I guess the difference now is instead of just muzzling scientists and rewriting reports, the EPA under Trump is being destroyed from within. The Trump administration is trying to eliminate the ability to even regulate carbon dioxide emissions by gutting the agency responsible.

    This is also happening in other areas, Trump is often not even permanently staffing hundreds of key positions in government. In a sense he and his administration can be considered an anti-government.

    Trump Administration Has More Than 250 Unfilled Jobs

    "Hundreds of jobs remain unfilled in the Trump administration, and many are being held by temporary appointees. But a federal law limits how long those temps can serve, and many are bumping up against the end of their terms."

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  4. Dana, don't blame democracy: blame the consuming pig who demands a Hollywood lifestyle.

    The basic folly with democracy is that it assumes a leader can be chosen!!

    System corrupts man. 

    Do you honestly think Democrats are clean-skins?

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  5. Bozza @4

    "Dana, don't blame democracy: blame the consuming pig who demands a Hollywood lifestyle."

    Consumers are partly to blame, but the blame is at least partly with agencies that set weak environmental laws (eg Scott Pruitt). Without good environmental laws, do you seriously think human behaviour would change sufficiently? History shows it doesn't.

    Environmental law is ultimately an extension of property law to the planet as a whole, ie everyones property,  and is therefore totally legitimate.

    "The basic folly with democracy is that it assumes a leader can be chosen!!"

    Yes the trouble is heads of government agencies are often appointed by politicians, not the people. However there has been a tradition on both sides of politics of appointing reasonable people to head agencies. Trump has totally trashed this.

    "Do you honestly think Democrats are clean-skins?"

    Weak argument. Their behaviour in no way excuses White House and Republican failures, and the democrats certainly look cleaner anyway over the last decade. I'm an outsider in another country and political moderate looking in.

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  6. Pristine air, as provided by wind turbines and solar panels, creates far more wealth than the continuing use of fossil fuel.  The problem from the point of view of the congress-critters (love that definition) is that the wealth is spread around through the population and doesn't go into the hands of the vested interersts that finance them.  There is one and only one solution to this and a mirad of other problems.

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  7. Recommended supplemental reading:

    Industry Sway Over EPA Is Stronger Now Than Under Reagan, Study Says by Neela Banerjee, InsideClimate News, May 1, 2018

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  8. The rats are leaving the sinking ship, it could be a very different political picture for the Trump WH next year.

    Republicans who won't be coming back to Congress after 2018 midterm elections

    It's entirely possible there will be a number of Trump officials who will find themselves in prison over their actions of the last couple of years including Scott Pruitt. And possibly Trump himself.

    At which point the process of rebuilding the EPA and US government itself can begin.

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  9. 18 states are now suing the EPA over the arbitrary changes made under the Trump appointed Scott Pruitt.

    California, 17 other states sue Trump administration to defend Obama-era climate rules for vehicles

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  10. Under the Trump administration, the EPA has moved closer than at any point in its history to serving the needs of the entities it regulates rather than the agency's mission to serve the public, a new report in the American Journal of Public Health says.

    => Pruitt's EPA Is on the Verge of 'Regulatory Capture', Study Says

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  11. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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