Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who first gained Donald Trump’s attention by devoting his life to the utter destruction of the EPA for the benefit of his friends in the fossil fuel industry, has turned that agency into a three-letter wrecking ball. He wholeheartedly believes that his agency’s role is to serve polluters and big business, but he is also in service to Trump, who titters with glee every time some Obama-era protection is erased.
You have to see it all in order to really encompass it, and this isn’t even all of it. What began with a headline in November of 2016 — “Trump Wins” — quickly accelerated into a headlong windsprint toward our collective doom:
• Scott Pruitt Confirmed as EPA Chief, Washington Post, 02/17/2017
• “Science” Scrubbed From EPA’s Mission Statement, New Republic, 03/07/2017
• EPA Chief Downplays Role Played by Carbon Dioxide in Climate Change, CNBC, 03/09/2017
• Dakota Access Pipeline Prepared for Use, Indianz.com, 03/27/2017
• Obama Administration Climate Actions Undone by Executive Order, White House, 03/28/2017
• Keystone XL Pipeline Approved, Truthout, 03/31/2017
• Pruitt Calls for Exit From Paris Agreement, ThinkProgress, 4/14/2017
• Trump Signs Order to Vastly Expand Offshore Oil Drilling, Facing South, 04/19/2017
• EPA Scrubs Climate Change Website, EPA, 04/28/2017
• EPA Dismisses Science Advisors, The Atlantic, 05/05/2017
• US Pulls Out of Paris Climate Agreement, Truthout, 06/01/2017
• Report: EPA Enforcement Lags Under Trump, Environmental Integrity Project, 08/10/2017
• Trump Revokes Flood Standards Accounting for Sea-Level Rise, White House, 08/15/2017
• Mining Health Study Halted; Climate Advisory Panel Disbanded, National Geographic, 08/22/2017
• Trump EPA Poised to Scrap Clean Power Plan, Truthout, 10/10/2017
• Trump Drops Climate Change From List of National Security Threats, White House, 12/18/2017
• EPA Loosens Regulations on Toxic Air Pollution, EPA, 01/25/2018
• Trump Proposes Cuts to Climate and Clean-Energy Programs, White House, 02/12/2018
• FEMA Expels “Climate Change” From Strategic Plan, NPR, 03/16/2018
• EPA Starts Rollback of Car Emission Standards, DeSmogBlog, 04/08/2018
• Pruitt Unveils Controversial “Transparency” Rule Limiting What Research EPA Can Use, Washington Post, 04/24/2018
That last one is a real doozy: “A chorus of scientists and public health groups warn that the rule would effectively block the EPA from relying on long-standing, landmark studies on the harmful effects of air pollution and pesticide exposure,” reports the Post. In short, Pruitt is attacking basic science itself. Some of these reports used the personal medical data of patients, and so were not made public. This kind of data was previously used to link leaded gasoline to neurological disorders and air pollution to thousands upon thousands of deaths. This kind of data, in other words, saved lives. This decision, like many others Pruitt has made, will eventually come with a body count.
Anthropogenic climate change is fact, according to the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK’s Royal Society’s most recent report. It bluntly explains the evidence “that the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities.” It does not get any more straightforward than that, and anyone trying to tell you different is probably getting paid to do so.
The so-called Butterfly Effect is very much involved in the matter of climate change. Thanks to the vagaries of planetary ecology, a smokestack spitting poison in Shenzhen, China, has a direct effect on Nebraska, and vice versa. According to a large study performed by The Lancet, some nine million people a year die as an immediate result of pollution. The World Health Organization predicts 5,000,000 deaths due to climate change between the years 2020 and 2050.
Those numbers are almost certainly underestimated, because this beast feeds on itself. Climate change causes pollution — see Puerto Rico and Houston after the last hurricane season — and pollution causes climate change. Combine that with the global climate refugee crises to come and a dwindling supply of clean drinking water, and we are presented with the potential for a planetary scourging the likes of which have not been seen since the time of the dinosaurs.
We can’t go much further in this without noting for posterity that Scott Pruitt appears to be a damn crook. The man must believe he is the Treasury Secretary, because he sure as hell thinks he has keys to the vault. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on first-class and military flights, useless sound-proof telephones, non-approved pay raises for friendly staffers, a security detail to rival the president’s, and never mind the sweetheart apartment deals with lobbyists and their spouses. The fact that he is seemingly stealing from us while killing us truly makes him the perfect Trump Cabinet Secretary.
He is killing us, too. All of us. This is no longer a theoretical exercise. This is right now:
In tests conducted in late 2017, one in three coal-fired power plants nationwide detected “statistically significant” amounts of contaminants, including harmful chemicals like arsenic, in the groundwater around their facilities.
This information, which utility companies had to post on their websites in March, became public for the first time under an Obama-era environmental rule regulating coal ash, the waste generated from burning coal.
But now, just as residents are getting their first indication of whether neighboring plants might pose a threat, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is advancing a proposal to amend the rule, giving states the authority to lessen consequences and weaken requirements for polluting power plants.
All this is happening for one reason alone: Scott Pruitt and his benefactor Donald Trump are helping the fossil fuel industry perform one last massive act of profit-taking before the ocean comes and brines the whole business out of existence. This is The Last Grab, and the EPA is making it as easy as possible.
Scott Pruitt’s obvious disdain for the rules of his office would require his removal even if he were the most eco-friendly EPA head in the history of the agency. That he is literally and deliberately dumping oil, toxic gas and coal ash on the planet as a favor to his energy industry pals makes the necessity of his removal an immediate thing. So long as Trump keeps protecting him, however, Scott Pruitt is safe as kittens.
In a just world, there would be actual legal consequences for Pruitt’s behavior. This is not as farfetched as it sounds: Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil and several other oil giants are currently being sued in federal court for their role in causing the climate crisis. Chevron’s attorneys went so far as to admit, in open court, that the company accepts the reality of climate change as established fact.
If Chevron can be brought to the bar for crimes against the environment, why not Scott Pruitt?