Scott Pruitt Claims He’s Taken More Actions to Fight Pollution Than Obama, but Can’t Name Any

by Mark Hand – The EPA has not taken a single step to significantly reduce air or water pollution under Trump. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt has accomplished an impressive feat: In only nine months in office, he has done more than any of his predecessors — even more than the divisive Anne Gorsuch under President Ronald Reagan — to roll back the EPA’s crucial functions and create a culture of fear among agency employees with years of expertise in environmental protection. EPA observers contend Pruitt “has claimed the worst-ever title” from Gorsuch, who herself succeeded in shepherding through major agency budget cuts and rollbacks of new clean and air and regulations when the agency was in its infancy. But Pruitt is going several steps further by turning the agency into “a hollow shell by whacking its budget, overturning rules based on bogus reports and keeping employees in the dark,” according to one assessment of Pruitt’s...

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If There’s a War on Coal, Coal Already Lost

by Oscar Reyes – Trump’s coddling can’t save the notoriously dirty industry when cleaner options and better jobs abound. “The war on coal is over,” according to Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt spoke these words in a speech to coal miners in Hazard, Kentucky, where he announced the formal repeal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. What he failed to mention is that if this is a war, coal has already lost. The demand for coal has collapsed in recent years. More than half of all U.S. electricity was produced from coal just a decade ago. Today’s figure is just over 30 percent, and continues to fall. Twelve coal-fired power stations have already closed since Trump took office. A recent survey by the Union of Concern Scientists found that around a quarter of the remaining coal units will soon be retired or converted to gas, and a further 17 percent...

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EPA’s 4-Year Strategic Plan Doesn’t Mention ‘Climate.’ Not Once

by Jake Johnson – “This wasn’t an oversight, this is a deliberate strategy by this administration.” If President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hadn’t already made it abundantly clear that addressing climate change is near the very bottom of its list of priorities, the agency’s newly unveiled four-year “strategic plan” should remove all doubt, as it does not contain a single mention of “climate change”—or even just “climate.” The 38-page draft, quietly made available for public comment last week, also neglects to mention “carbon dioxide,” “greenhouse gases,” or “renewable energy.” By contrast, former President Barack Obama’s EPA made addressing climate change the first of the agency’s five stated goals in its 2014 strategic plan—which used the phrase “climate change” more than 40 times. Dr. Rachel Cleetus, climate policy manager with the Union of Concerned Scientists, calledthe EPA’s scrubbing of climate change from its report “stunning,” and argued that it was no accident. “Climate...

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Carbon Rule Repeal Kicks Off Epic Battle Over Regulating Emissions

by Natasha Geiling – The EPA has finally revealed its proposal for repealing a major climate regulation. After months of speculation and days of teasing the announcement — the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released its proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 rule that would have regulated carbon emissions from the electricity sector. “We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate.  Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule,”  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a press statement. At least two state attorneys general said Tuesday they would sue to protect the rule. Pruitt’s proposal is merely the first step in repealing the rule, which had previously been put on hold by the Supreme Court while opponents and supporters of the rule argued over its legality in the D.C. Circuit Court....

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EPA Forces Staff to Attend Anti-Leak Classes as Attack on Environment Continues

by Jessica Corbett – Federal employees threatened over leaks while Trump administration wages war on planet. As the Trump administration continues to gut regulations meant to protect public health and the environment, the Associated Press reports Thursday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffers are being forced to attend anti-leaking classes this week as part of a wider effort by the White House to stem the flow of unauthorized information reaching the public. The AP, which obtained training materials from the Environmental Protection Agency’s hour-long anti-leaking class, reports how “a three-page fact sheet sent to EPA employees as part of the training warned that leaks of even unclassified information could have serious consequences to national security.” The document reportedly provided examples detailing how government secrets previously have been revealed through espionage, hacking, or leaks to the press, and noted that “enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm U.S....

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As Hurricanes Strike, EPA Staffing Nears a 30-Year Low

by John Light – The agency says it will still be able to respond to natural disasters, like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. At the end of August, nearly 400 employees left the EPA. Staffing levels are approaching their lowest point since the Reagan administration, The Wall Street Journal reports. At the beginning of the summer, the agency offered a buyout plan to 1,200 staffers, and roughly a third took the agency up on the offer. More staffers are expected to retire or take buyouts this month, putting the Trump administration well on its way to slashing 3,200 jobs from the agency, the goal outlined in the president’s budget. As employees head for the exit, some people have questions about whether the agency will still be able to adequately regulate, Timothy Puko reports for The Journal: Mr. Pruitt hasn’t laid out any plan for how to reshape the agency or its priorities, making it more difficult...

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EPA to Investigate Scott Pruitt’s Frequent Trips to Oklahoma at Taxpayer Expense

by Mark Hand – EPA administrator spent 43 days in his home state over three-month period. The Environmental Protection Agency’s office of inspector general plans to look into whether Administrator Scott Pruitt adhered to agency policies when he traveled to Oklahoma dozens of times during his first six months as administrator. Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter Monday to the EPA inspector general requesting a review of Pruitt’s travels to his home state at taxpayers’ expense. In a memo issued Monday, the inspector general’s office also said the inquiry was initiated in response to a complaint it received on its hotline. The IG’s office will look into the frequency, cost, and extent of Pruitt’s travel to Oklahoma through July 31. It will seek to determine whether the EPA’s travel policies and procedures were followed by Pruitt and other agency staff as part of those trips. Finally, the office will look at whether the agency’s policies and...

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Senior EPA Official Resigns With Scathing Message for Trump and Pruitt

by Natasha Geiling – “Today the environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth.” A senior official with the Environmental Protection Agency has resigned from her post, citing the Trump administration’s anti-environment and anti-regulatory agenda in her exit statement as part of her reason for leaving. Elizabeth Southerland worked for the EPA for 30 years, most recently as Director of the Office of Science and Technology for the agency’s Water Office. In her farewell letter, posted publicly by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Southerland singles out several Trump-era regulatory rollbacks, which she argues are threatening the core mission of the EPA. Southerland criticized EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s approach to working with states on environmental enforcement, arguing that Pruitt’s desire to shift environmental protection to the states while cutting funding for federally-funded state environmental programs would merely force states to either increase taxes or decrease environmental enforcement. She also raised...

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As Pruitt Guts Water Rules, EPA Will Allow Fracking Waste Dumping in the Gulf of Mexico

 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – As the Trump administration moves to gut Obama-era clean water protections nationwide, an environmental group is warning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its draft pollution discharge permit for offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico violates clean water laws because it allows operators to dump fracking chemicals and large volumes of drilling wastewater directly into the Gulf. In a recent letter to the agency, the Center for Biological Diversity told the EPA that the dumping of drilling wastewater — which can contain fracking chemicals, drilling fluids and pollutants, such as heavy metals — directly into Gulf waters is unacceptable and prohibited under the Clean Water Act. Under current rules established by the Obama administration, offshore oil and gas platforms can discharge well-treatment chemicals and unlimited amounts of “produced waters” from undersea wells directly into the Gulf as long as operators perform toxicity tests a few...

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EPA’s Pruitt Wants a Televised Debate on Climate Science. Next up: Is the Earth Really a sphere?

by Meteor Blades – Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency-hating chief of the EPA, wants to have a televised debate among scientists on climate change. When my colleague Mark Sumner read the news about this, he pictured a climate Thunderdome in which two scientists enter and a hunk of the public leaves still believing that there really is a debate to be had. Pruitt obviously believes that the subject is debatable, and he has made clear which side he comes down on. Anyone who has followed his work as attorney general of Oklahoma filing 14 lawsuits against the EPA, including a joint challenge to block the Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from fossil fuel power plants, recognizes just how little he cares about the environment and the people harmed by pollution—including the pollution of greenhouse gas emissions. The oil and gas industry has consequently showered him with campaign contributions and, on official attorney general stationery, he’s been...

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Scott Pruitt and ‘His Polluter Friends’ Take Aim at Clean Water Rule

by Jake Johnson – Environmental groups argue that Pruitt is “cooking the books to try and discredit the clear economic and public health benefits of the Clean Water Rule.” Scott Pruitt has spent much of his short tenure as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) working at a “dizzying” speed to dismantle Obama-era regulations that restrain major polluters. His most recent target: a rule designed to protect the drinking water of millions of Americans. The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule—also called the Clean Water Rule—was put forth by the Obama administration in 2015 as part of an effort to clearly define which bodies of water are protected by the 1972 Clean Water Act. As Politico noted shortly after the regulation was announced, “powerhouse industries like agriculture, oil, and home-building” mounted a “fierce counterattack.” This backlash yielded some success: the WOTUS rule was never implemented in its entirety, as multiple states sued and...

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EPA Dismisses the People in Charge of Scientific Integrity

by BEN ADLER – Pruitt has now gotten rid of most of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors. In the latest blow to the integrity of the science used by government agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dismissed nearly all of the members of its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) this week. The board, which reviews and advises EPA’s internal research departments on their scientific methodology, was already understaffed. On Tuesday, E&E News, an environmental news outlet, obtained an email from Robert Kavlock, acting head of EPA’s Office of Research and Development, saying that BOSC members whose three-year appointments expire in August will not get renewed. Environmental advocates had been concerned about the fate of the BOSC for some time. This week’s highly unusual action comes on the heels of EPA’s decision in May not to renew the appointments of nine of the BOSC executive committee’s 18 members. (Historically, BOSC members have been renewed for a...

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West Virginians are Realistic About Coal’s Demise, Even if Politicians Aren’t

by Mark Hand – Lawmaker praises Scott Pruitt for creating “sense of hope” in state. A West Virginia congressman on Thursday praised Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for supporting the state’s coal industry and helping to bring a sense of optimism back to the state, even as the Trump administration plans major cuts to programs that help West Virginians. U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), in comments at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget for the EPA, accused former President Barack Obama of putting “so many people on the unemployment line” in his state. With Trump as president, coal jobs are returning to West Virginia, Jenkins said. “We have got people going back to work to create a sense of hope and opportunity in their lives. So, I want to thank you for that,” he told Pruitt. The coal industry nationwide accounted for a total of 51,000 jobs...

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EPA Chief Cites Flawed NYT Column to Justify Trump’s Exit From Paris Deal (VIDEO)

by Joe Romm – Scott Pruitt continues to spread misinformation on climate, but is puzzled why he’s called a “climate denier.” At the daily White House press briefing on Friday, one day after the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, Press Secretary Sean Spicer handed the podium to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt then ably provided the kind of nonstop falsehoods and misinformation the press and public have come to expect. Pruitt said he didn’t know why people call him a “climate denier,” and then proceeded to quote and misquote Bret Stephens — the New York Times’ new columnist who has been widely criticized for spreading misinformation on climate change — as a basis for denying basic climate science. Here’s the video, in which Pruitt tries to defend President Donald Trump’s catastrophic decision to exit the Paris climate deal: First, Pruitt says some people call him a “climate denier,” but adds, “I...

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Scientists Just Published a Study Calling Out the Head of the EPA by Name

by Samantha Page – No, warming is not ‘leveling off.’ A new study appeared in the journal Nature on Wednesday, directly refuting the idea that satellite data has shown global warming has leveled off, a claim made by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier this year. “Satellite temperature measurements do not support the recent claim of a “leveling off of warming” over the past two decades,” the study says. The researchers were upfront about why they ran the study, calling out Pruitt by name. “Mr. Pruitt claimed that ‘over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.’ We test this claim here,” the researchers write. The study was authored by Benjamin Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and three Livermore colleagues, as well as three scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington in Seattle, and...

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Experts Resign From EPA Subcommittee to Protest Trump’s War on Science

by Deirdre Fulton – “These scientists are putting their feet down in the face of Trump and Pruitt’s total disdain for science, reality, and the very foundations of our government.” Protesting the Trump administration’s “continued obfuscation of scientific evidence and the research enterprise,” two scientists resigned Friday from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory subcommittee focused on public health and pollution. Specifically, Drs. Carlos Martín and Peter Meyer cited the EPA’s recent decision to not renew the terms of Drs. Courtney Flint and Robert Richardson on the agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors. News outlets reported this week that the EPA was considering replacing up to a dozen such scientists with representatives of the very industries the agency is tasked with policing. Board members Flint and Richard were co-chairs of the Sustainable and Healthy Communities Subcommittee, on which Martin and Meyer both served. The subcommittee “looked at how to improve environmental health...

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The Top 7 Ways the Trump Administration is Attacking Science at the EPA

by Myriam Alexander-Kearns and Alison Cassady – The core mission of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, “is to protect human health and the environment.” As part of that mission, the agency works to ensure that “national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information.” During the first four months of 2017, President Donald Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and their allies in Congress have proven themselves hostile to the role of science in achieving the agency’s mission but all too willing to heed the requests of polluters. Here are the top seven ways in which science is already under siege at the EPA. 1. Administrator Pruitt rejected decades of science to keep a dangerous pesticide on the market Chlorpyrifos is a common agricultural pesticide that causes neurological harm in children who were exposed to it in utero. In 2016, the EPA’s scientists concluded that the...

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EPA Considers Gutting Regulations on Lead Contamination

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent out a notice on Wednesday announcing a series of upcoming public meetings in which it will consider gutting rules and regulations meant to protect the public from lead and hazardous chemicals, including training programs designed to prevent children from being exposed to lead paint. The notice went out at 2:30, just as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was meeting with residents of a neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana, that has been contaminated with lead for decades. Six weeks after beleaguered residents petitioned his agency to take emergency action to protect them from lead contamination in their drinking water, Scott Pruitt was visiting East Chicago as part of the kick-off tour for his term as administrator of the EPA. “That timing is discouraging, obviously,” said Debbie Chizewer, an attorney at an environmental law clinic at Northwestern University who...

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Update for Trump Voters

by Robert Reich – 1. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. You bought it. Then he bombed Syria. 2. He said he’d build a wall along the border with Mexico. You bought it. Now his secretary of homeland security says “It’s unlikely that we will build a wall.” 3. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses. 4. He said he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “wonderful.” You bought it. Then he didn’t. 5. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White House into shape. You bought it. Then he created the most chaotic, dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history, in which no one is in charge. 6. He said he’d release his tax returns, eventually....

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Oklahoma Bar Launches Investigation to Determine if Trump’s EPA Chief Lied Under Oath

by Nadia Prupis – EPA chief told Congress he only conducted official attorney general business on professional email account, but document dump showed otherwise. The Oklahoma Bar Association on Thursday opened an investigation into whether Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt lied to Congress under oath. Pruitt has been asked to respond to the inquiry, which will look into possible ethics violations stemming from his confirmation hearing in January, when he testified that he only ever used his professional email account to conduct official business while serving as Oklahoma attorney general. Following the investigation, the association’s Professional Responsibility Commission will determine whether to take disciplinary action against Pruitt. The probe was launched in response to a formal ethics complaint (pdf) filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and University of Oklahoma law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos. Pruitt’s testimony was proven false after a lawsuit filed in February by...

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Contrary to Spin, Trump Slashing Energy Jobs With New Executive Order

by Nika Knight – “These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.” As the Trump administration brags that Tuesday’s executive order to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations will create coal industry jobs, new employment data from the Department of Energy (DoE) demonstrates how misguided that claim is. Clean energy employs many more Americans than the fossil fuel industry, and economic forecasts show that the trend will continue, according to a Sierra Club analysis published Monday of the DoE’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (pdf) released earlier this year. “Clean energy jobs, including those from solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart grid technology, and battery storage, vastly outnumber all fossil fuel jobs nationwide from the coal, oil and gas sectors. That includes jobs in power generation, mining, and other forms of fossil fuel extraction,” the Sierra Club...

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House Dems Send Educational Materials to Help Scott Pruitt Get a Grip on Basic Climate Science

by Andrea Germanos – “It’s clear that you need to read the enclosed reports.” Given the lack of understanding of basic climate science Scott Pruitt displayed on a recent appearance on CNBC, 33 House Democrats have sent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head educational materials to help him get a grip on established facts. Speaking last week to the network’s “Squawk Box,” Pruitt sparked the ire of climate groups—and contradicted his own statements to the U.S. Senate—when he said, “I would not agree that is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” “As Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt must understand these non-controversial concepts,” a press statement from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) states. Blumenauer, along with 32 of his House colleagues including Reps. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) sent to Pruitt a brief letter as well...

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Pruitt Promised He’d Tackle CO2 But Now Plays Dumb on Climate Science

by Nika Knight – ‘The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department, and he seems happy to let the climate crisis burn out of control.’ \Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt made heads turn on CNBC Thursday morning when he argued against decades of scientific consensus and said that carbon dioxide emissions aren’t a primary driver of global warming. In doing so, Pruitt directly opposed his own statements to the U.S. Senate. (This wouldn’t be the first time that Pruitt lied to or misled Congress.) In his answer to a question on the record (pdf, page 122) from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Pruitt wrote: “I also believe the Administrator has an important role when it comes to the regulation of carbon dioxide, which I will fulfill consistent with Massachusetts v. EPA and the agency’s Endangerment Finding on Greenhouse Gases respective of the applicable statutory framework established by Congress.”...

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5 Trump Cabinet Members Who’ve Made False Statements to Congress

by Eric Umansky and Marcelo Rochabrun – Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t alone. As most of the world knows by now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not tell the truth when he was asked during his confirmation hearings about contacts with Russian officials. But Sessions isn’t the only one. At least four other cabinet members made statements during their nomination hearings that are contradicted by actual facts: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The statements were all made under oath, except those of DeVos. It is a crime to “knowingly” lie in testimony to Congress, but it’s rarely prosecuted. If you know of instances that we’ve missed, email us.   EPA Chief Scott Pruitt The falsehood: Pruitt stated in testimony that he had never used a private email account to conduct business while he was Oklahoma’s...

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EPA Administrator Lied about Private Email use in Senate Testimony

by Bryce Covert – Thousands of emails Scott Pruitt sent to oil and gas companies still haven’t been disclosed. An investigation by Fox 25 in Oklahoma has confirmed that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt used a private email account to conduct official business while he was the state’s attorney general, directly contradicting what he told the Senate during his confirmation hearing. During his hearing, Pruitt was asked by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), “Have you ever conducted business using your personal email accounts, nonofficial Oklahoma Attorney General email accounts, text messages, instant messenger, voicemails, or any other medium?” Pruitt responded, “I use only my official OAG email address and government issued phone to conduct official business.” But the Oklahoma attorney general’s office confirmed to Fox 25 that Pruitt used private email for state business after an Open Records Request revealed documents where certain email addresses...

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President Trump’s Coming War on Science: Environment Edition

by Alison Cassady – On February 17, the U.S. Senate confirmed former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Observers can now expect the Trump administration—with Congress providing the wind at Administrator Pruitt’s back—to charge ahead with an aggressive agenda to weaken or nullify a decade’s worth of progress on pollution reduction. President Donald Trump and Administrator Pruitt are likely to start off by announcing plans to dismantle the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, and other components of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. They may also attack an Obama-era rule to protect the nation’s waterways from pollution. In addition to taking on specific environmental protections, President Trump and Congress are likely to pursue a more pernicious strategy to deny or obscure basic facts and science about climate change and assert new supposed truths...

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Senate Confirms “Worst, Most Dangerous Administrator in EPA History”

by Andrea Germanos – With fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt now in charge, now ‘begins the fight of a lifetime to protect public health, our environment, climate stability, and even the simple sanctity of the EPA itself.’ Portending risks to “the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we love,” the U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 52-46 vote comes a day after an Oklahoma judge said Pruitt was in violation of the state’s Open Records Act and ordered the release of thousands of emails between his office and fossil fuel companies. Senate Democrats said that warranted a delay on Pruitt’s confirmation, but Republicans pushed the vote ahead. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.) joined Republicans to vote in favor of Pruitt; thus, wrote Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, “we must assume that two Democratic...

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Here’s What a Defunded EPA Means for America

by JOHN LIGHT – The agency Trump plans to eviscerate does much more than fight climate change. We’re two weeks into the Trump administration and already it’s clear that on the campaign trail our new president was not overstating his antipathy for efforts to combat global warming. In fact, if anything, he understated his desire to demolish the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency through which President Obama tried to reduce climate change-causing pollution. While the long-term effects of President Trump’s plans for the EPA are worrying — the director of the EU’s Environmental Agency says there’s “not a snowball’s chance in hell” of containing global warming without US cooperation — his proposed cuts in the budget and staff at the agency will also have dramatic short-term effects. Here’s just some of what’s in store: Trump’s team has more than $800 million in budget cuts planned for the agency. To head...

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Plan to Crush the EPA Is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – Last month, in his final days as secretary of North Carolina’s environmental quality office, Donald R. van der Vaart penned an op-ed in support of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. At a confirmation hearing last week, Senate Democrats grilled Pruitt over his record of siding with polluters and suing the EPA to block a long list of air and water protections, but Republicans submitted van der Vaart’s op-ed as evidence that the regulatory community is behind President Trump’s nominee. The Republicans were perhaps unaware that the EPA had just called out van der Vaart’s agency for failing to protect communities of color from awful odors and swarms of flies generated by waste pits full of urine and feces at industrial pig farms. On January 12, the EPA’s civil rights office, which is tasked with protecting...

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Bipartisan EPA Alumni Urge Senate to Reject Pruitt’s “Troubling” Nomination

by Nadia Prupis – Pruitt’s track record shows he would “set science aside when the outcome is at odds with his predetermined political point of view”. On Monday, 13 former heads of state environmental bureaus sent a letter to senate leaders, urging them to reject Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief. The letter (pdf), organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), implores members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to vote against Pruitt over his track record of opposing EPA rules—a history that calls into question whether he “appropriately respects science-based decision making” or would cooperate with states to protect Americans’ health and safety from climate threats. “While we have worked under both Republican and Democratic Governors, reflect a range of political views, and come from diverse states, we share a common concern about Mr. Pruitt’s nomination,” the letter reads. In one...

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Democrats Aim to Slam Brakes on Key Members of Trump’s “Rigged Cabinet”

by Deirdre Fulton – Tillerson, Sessions, DeVos, and Mnuchin among those set for messy confirmation process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been warned that Senate Democrats are planning to “aggressively target” eight of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, aiming to delay as long as possible the confirmation hearings slated to start next week. “President-elect Trump is attempting to fill his rigged cabinet with nominees that would break key campaign promises and have made billions off the industries they’d be tasked with regulating,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Sunday reported by the Washington Post. “Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before Inauguration Day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist,” Schumer said. “If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a...

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Senators Dig into Scott Pruitt’s Fossil Fuel Connections Before Confirmation Hearings Begin

by Natasha Geiling – Pruitt is an active member of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which has received $175,000 from the Koch brothers. Six Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee sent a letter to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday, asking that he answer questions about his ties to the fossil fuel industry and a conservative nonprofit funded in part by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch. Pruitt has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to take on the role of EPA administrator, and the Senators behind the letter are looking for more information about how his ties to the fossil fuel industry might influence his work at the EPA before confirmation hearings begin. The letter, signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), asked for more information regarding Pruitt’s ties...

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Senate Democrats Demand to Know EPA Nominee’s Ties to Koch Brothers

by Nadia Prupis – Lawmakers ask Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to disclose relationship to public policy institute funded by Koch-related initiative. Senate Democrats are demanding to know what’s behind Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head nominee Scott Pruitt’s ties to the reclusive conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The lawmakers, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, wrote a letter (pdf) to Pruitt on Tuesday demanding that he provide “a full disclosure” of his relationship with the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), a right-leaning public policy organization that receives funding from Freedom Partners—a group that funds initiatives supported by the Kochs, who have deep investments in fossil fuels. Pruitt’s association with the RLDF is one of several “troubling” ties to the energy industry, the letter states. The fund, which provides a forum for Republican attorneys general to engage on state-level policy, has been known to oppose EPA regulations....

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Trump Picks ‘Fossil Fuel Industry Puppet’ Scott Pruitt to Head EPA

by Andrea Germanos – ‘Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.’ Portending threats to efforts aimed at reining in climate change, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General and fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), his transition team said Wednesday. The planned appointment, as Politico writes,  would put “one of the agency’s most hostile critics and a skeptic of climate change science at its helm.” According to 350.org executive director May Boeve, “You couldn’t pick a better fossil fuel industry puppet.” He’s been at the forefront of a legal effort to block President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which he called federal “coercion and commandeering” of energy policy. Giving an overview of his background, Rhea Suh, president of NRDC, wrote this week: Over the past five years, Pruitt has used his position...

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Oklahoma Attorney General Asks Court To Halt All Executions In His State

by IAN MILLHISER – One day after Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) issued a surprise order staying a man’s execution just minutes before it was supposed to begin, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) filed a petition in the state’s highest criminal court asking it to indefinitely stay all executions in the state. Pruitt’s request arises from the same set of circumstances that led Fallin to delay the state’s plan to execute an inmate named Richard Glossip. Like many states, Oklahoma’s execution protocol calls for a series of three drugs — one that is supposed to act as a painkiller, one to paralyze the inmate and then a third that stops the inmate’s heart. Oklahoma typically uses potassium chloride as the third drug in this sequence, but they discovered shortly before Glossip’s execution was supposed to begin that they’d actually received a supply of a different drug — potassium acetate. Both...

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State Officials Trying To Gut Obamacare Get Caught Making False Claims To The Supreme Court

by IAN MILLHISER – The Republican attorneys general of six states, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia, all signed a brief asking the Supreme Court to gut the Affordable Care Act. Yet one of the central claims in this brief — a claim that cuts to the heart of whether the Supreme Court should shred much of Obamacare or leave it intact — is at odds with a pile of evidence to the contrary. This evidence includes explicitly contradictory statements from the Republican governors of several states, including three of the states represented by these six attorneys general. And the six attorneys general were unable to muster any contrary evidence that supports their central claim. This weakness in their case is unlikely to be unnoticed by the justices, however, as a brief filed Wednesday by a much larger group of state officials rounds up much of the...

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