OKLAHOMA CITY – Although Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt garnered immediate praise from many conservative leaders after President-Elect Donald Trump chose him to run the Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/oklahoma-conservatives-applaud-scott-pruitt-s-selection-to-run-epa), a range of private sector activists and academics have passionately decried the choice.
The Rev. Dr. Mark A. Davies told CapitolBeatOK, “With Scott Pruitt at its head, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may continue to exist by that name, but it will focus more on deregulation of industry rather than protection of the environment.
“One needs only to look closely at Pruitt’s record of fighting against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, his financial connections to fossil fuel companies, and his emails with Devon Energy while serving as Oklahoma's Attorney General to see that he is deeply linked to and influenced by fossil fuel interests. Given that he has virtually no experience in the area of environmental protection, it is rational to assume that his advocacy on behalf of the fossil fuel industry is the leading reason he has been named to this appointment.”
Davies, the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics at Oklahoma City University, continued, “With a Pruitt-led EPA, any significant environmental protection and climate change mitigation will have to come from persons in local communities and ecologically responsible states in solidarity and connection with other communities and from leadership outside of the United States.
“The work of all caring and compassionate people in the United States working for climate justice and environmental protection will also require ongoing nonviolent resistance and nonviolent direct action.”
Echoing many of Davies’ views was Jim Stovall of the Mediation Institute, based in Oklahoma City. He told CapitolBeatOK, the Pruitt choice “is the classic case of the fox guarding the hen house. Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma's former Attorney General, actually sought to protect the people and the natural resources of Oklahoma. Pruitt, on the other hand, has never met an environmental regulation that he likes.
“He has made a name for himself by fighting against EPA regulations that are intended to protect our nation's air, water and land. He has argued that the EPA has exceeded its authority by regulating matters that should be left to the states but the fact is that he is not simply opposed to federal regulation of industry. He is opposed to any regulation of industry.
“Under normal circumstances, one might say ‘Well, that's just politics. Trump won. Clinton lost.’ The problem here is that the U.S. is at a critical juncture in regard to how we treat our natural environment especially as we seek to limit carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Scientists are reaching the conclusion that we must act now and we must act quickly if we are to avoid a climate disaster.
“When 196 nations can come together and agree to take bold action to tackle an urgent crisis as they did last year in Paris, you know that something important is underway. I doubt seriously if Pruitt has a clue about what is at stake in the implementation of this historic agreement.”
Stovall is also chair of the Environmental Committee for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.
“In public statements, the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress have made clear their belief that global warming science from NASA's Earth Science Division and Environmental Protection Agency is "politically motivated" and therefore not to be heeded. They say they plan to cut the budgets of these institutions for the same reason. This is like firing one's doctors to avoid accepting their diagnosis of a life-threatening disease,” commented Nathaniel Batchelder of the Peace House in Oklahoma City.
Calling the Pruitt choice “grotesque,” Batchelder focused on Pruitt’s opposition to the current federal administration’s “plan to comply with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
“It is criminally irresponsible for our leaders to dismiss science calling humanity to reduce emissions of certain gases or doom the planet to changes that could cut in half humanity’s population and the numbers of other species sharing earth with us.”
Pat Hoerth, a United Methodist Church deaconess, runs the Turtle Rock Farm retreat center.
She said EPA is “charged with protecting human health and the environment. This requires enforcing federal regulations because, as yet, we humans don’t seem to be able to regulate ourselves in ways that protect the commons — Earth, our home. Scott Pruitt’s history in Oklahoma has been protecting the fossil fuel industry and making concerted efforts to do away with regulations that would cost the fossil fuel industry, creating dirtier air and water.”
Hoerth continued, telling The City Sentinel newspaper the EPA administrator “should believe in its mission and purpose, especially now as people around the world are suffering from the impacts of global warming and climate change. Pruitt is anti-environmental protection and he should not be confirmed.”
"We cannot imagine a worse choice to head the EPA,” commented Jackson Bridgwater, director of Oklahoma’s chapter of the Sierra Club. In addition to assailing Pruitt’s ties to the state energy industry, Bridgwater observed, “he has not even entered into Oklahoma's earthquake disaster issue, despite multiple lawsuits by others already on file. It is clear he favors big energy over public well-being."
In a Facebook post, former U.S. Department of Justice official Kalyn Free said, “To the environmental community, I am so deeply sorry about this Oklahoman that is being foisted on you.”
The Oklahoma Democratic Party circulated this statement: “It is no surprise that Scott Pruitt, an energy production and fossil fuels ally and known for cozying up to big oil and energy lobbyists, is Trump’s choice in his anti-climate-change movement and head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is more interested in big oil and gas, partisan agendas, and filing frivolous lawsuits than protecting our country’s clean air and water or the effects of global warming. Pruitt’s appointment is another example of how Trump is not draining the swamp as he claimed he would. Instead, Trump is building a team to dismantle efforts to protect our environment and our children’s future while opening the gate to special oil and gas interest groups.”