EPA protects public health; Trump’s pick won’t

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EPA protects public health; Trump’s pick won’t

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:39 am

EPA protects public health; Trump’s pick won’t

By State Rep. Jeanne Kirkton Jan 3, 2017 (…)

For nearly 20 years, I practiced nursing and served eight years in the Missouri House of Representatives. As a practitioner and policymaker, I was tasked with helping people. Likewise, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created with bipartisan support during the Richard Nixon administration, is tasked with helping people by protecting our public health and our air, land and water.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to downsize or eliminate the EPA. His nominee to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is a longtime ally of energy companies and at odds with the agency’s mission.

Look at the nominee’s record as Oklahoma attorney general. Pruitt filed or joined 13 lawsuits against the EPA to block clean air and water protections and limits on smog and power plant pollution. Eight lawsuits are still pending.

Since 2002, he has received over $300,000 in campaign donations from fossil fuel companies. On Aug. 29, 2013, Oklahoma Oil & Electric hosted a fundraiser for Pruitt, in which its employees raised $17,825 for his re-election campaign. Four days later, he filed an appeal in the company’s case against the EPA. When Devon Energy lobbyists drafted and circulated a lengthy letter to the EPA for signatures, Pruitt changed only 37 words of the industry’s wish list and sent it off on his state letterhead.

In 2014, Pruitt spoke with The New York Times about the importance of Oklahoma’s energy industry to its economy and of protecting Oklahoma’s economy from the perilous effects of federal overreach by agencies such as the EPA. In a November radio interview, and miles apart from the EPA mission, Pruitt said, “The greatest opportunity that we have heading into this new administration ... is to provide certainty to business industries. ... There’s going to be regulatory rollback.”

Now is not the time to backtrack. Pollution and climate change affect health. The American Lung Association reported that asthma resulted in an estimated 14.4 million lost school days in children and 14.2 million lost work days in adults in 2008. Asthma costs the U.S. $56 billion in health care costs annually. St. Louis’ asthma rates rank second out of the 100 most populated U.S. cities, and the Missouri counties of Dent, Iron, Jackson, Jefferson, Reynolds, St. Charles, St. Louis and St. Louis city continue to be non-attainment areas in terms of air pollution.

Health and economic strength go hand-in-hand. Clean air measures help decrease absenteeism in the workplace and schools, premature deaths, heart attacks and damage to crops and timber, and spur economic growth through new energy technology.

Ignoring the wisdom of 97 percent of climate scientists, Pruitt says the climate-change debate is “far from settled” and should be continued in Congress, classrooms and in the public realm. Time and again, American lives were wasted by taking the denial approach with the tobacco industry. Sure, it’s easier to ignore the experts and kick the can down the road. But our children and grandchildren deserve better.

The EPA administrator must be guided by science, uphold environmental laws and understand that protecting public health and economic growth are not mutually exclusive.

President-elect Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp.” Many agreed and voted for change. But selecting Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA isn’t draining the swamp; it’s turning over the keys of a vital public health agency to the fossil-fuel industry. It’s doubtful that’s what Missourians voted for in November. That’s why I call on Missouri’s senators, Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, to oppose Scott Pruitt’s confirmation.

Jeanne Kirkton is the Missouri state representative for the 91st District in St. Louis County and is a retired nurse.

http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/ep ... ec570.html


Oklahoma officials support Pruitt for EPA and have their own problems with federal regulators
by Rick Green
Published: January 2, 2017 12:00 AM CDT Updated: January 2, 2017 3:13 PM CDT

The head of the Sierra Club says selecting Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is like "appointing Darth Vader to lead the Rebel Alliance."

But within Oklahoma, the state's top prosecutor gets high marks from environmental officials.

In tapping Pruitt for the Cabinet-level post, President-elect Donald Trump picked someone who rails against federal overreach and has sued the EPA.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, used the Darth Vader comparison. He also compared Pruitt to an arsonist being put in charge of fighting fires.

"Pruitt is not only a climate science denier and fossil fuel apologist, he's cast himself as a sworn enemy of the very agency he would be in charge of," Brune said.

State environmental officials, on the other hand, like the idea of Pruitt leading the EPA. They have their own problems with federal regulators.

J.D. Strong, director of the state Wildlife Conservation Department, said states are in a better position to protect the environment than federal officials.

"Attorney General Pruitt has been a really good partner and ally in making sure we have adequate protections in place for the quality and quantity of water," said Strong, who previously led the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and was state secretary of the environment.

"I have never seen him put us in a position where we had to compromise anything to protect the waters of Oklahoma."

Pruitt has fought against new federal regulations on water pollution, but he has also acted to limit pollution in the Illinois River in eastern Oklahoma, Strong said.

"He worked really hard with us and Arkansas to come up with a sort of compromise agreement that would avoid litigation but put us on an aggressive path to increased protection on pollution in the Illinois River," he said.

Runoff from chicken waste and water treatment plants has harmed water quality and fish habitat in the river, which draws large numbers of tourists.

Strong said Pruitt helped Oklahoma and Arkansas officials work together to limit this pollution. State officials, not the EPA, led the way.

"It is a success story, but there is also more work to be done," Strong said.

"It's time we have someone in there willing to listen to all sides and someone in particular who feels very strongly that states are in a strong position to protect the environment, more so than the federal government."

Scott Thompson, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, praised Pruitt for another case.

"Mr. Pruitt was essential in negotiating a historic water rights settlement with Indian tribes in southeast Oklahoma that preserved the ecosystems of scenic lakes and rivers," Thompson said. "This settlement, when Mr. Pruitt first arrived in office, seemed impossible due to conflict among the parties involved."

The water rights settlement was announced in August by the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, and the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. It is expected to double the city's future water supply by granting an average of 110,000 acre feet per year of water from the Sardis Lake reservoir in southeastern Oklahoma.

The tribes had sued the state to protect their rights to water in the 22 counties comprising their historic land. The settlement was reached after five years of mediation and ensures tribal input into decisions about various bodies of water.

When Trump tapped Pruitt for the post on Dec. 7, the attorney general signaled the EPA would act differently under his leadership. His appointment will be subject to Senate confirmation.

"The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses," Pruitt said.

In testimony before Congress, Pruitt acknowledged that EPA has an essential role.

"I'm not one who believes the EPA has no role; the agency has played a very important role historically in addressing water and air quality issues that traverse state lines," he said.

His disputes with the agency typically center on what he characterizes as federal overreach.

"Quite simply, the EPA does not possess the authority under the Clean Air Act to do what it is seeking to accomplish in the so-called Clean Power Plan," he testified. "The EPA under this administration treats states like a vessel of federal will.

"The EPA believes states exist to implement the policies the administration sees fit regardless whether the laws, like the Clean Air Act, permit such actions."

Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for... read more ›

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