PEOTUS Donald Trump has tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head up the US Environmental Protection Agency. The announcement touched off a disturbance in the Internet, to put it mildly, and the aftershocks will probably reverberate throughout Trump’s term(s) in office. After all, as Oklahoma AG Pruitt has joined in a legal battle pitting 26 states against the very federal enforcement agency he’ll be guiding.
Scott Pruitt As EPA Chief: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
The Pruitt announcement was issued yesterday, and pretty much every major environmental organization has already weighed in.
One of the nation’s oldest and arguably its most politically conservative environmental organization, the Sierra Club, issued this representative observation (yes, conservationists can be conservative, too):
“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires. He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections…”
Pruitt comes to the EPA with no professional background in environmental enforcement issues, unless you count that lawsuit. It’s actually just one among several that Pruitt has launched against EPA since assuming the AG title in 2011.
Our friends over at Tulsa World have assembled a handy rundown of all the legal activity, which includes water pollution issues and a Freedom of Information case as well as several dealing with air pollution and, of course, the Clean Power Plan.
The funny thing is, Pruitt’s legal arguments have proven spectacularly unsuccessful in case after case. Some of his lawsuits are still working their way through the courts, but so far he’s had no luck all the way up to the Supreme Court.
If he brings the same level of prowess to the EPA with an intent to stop the agency from carrying out its lawful duties, he’s going to need a lot of help.
Trust Goldman Sachs: The Clean Power Train Has Left The Station
Considering Trump’s other cabinet picks, Pruitt will probably get that help and it’s likely that he will do a great deal of damage, given his position on climate change.
However, one thing he can’t do is turn back the clock on clean power.
The nation’s leading energy buyers — including utilities, the Department of Defense and top corporations — have already set the stage for decarbonization regardless of what EPA does.
The agency just released its “Top 100” list of clean power buyers in October, and it’s peppered with names like Intel, Microsoft, Kohl’s, Cisco, Google, Starbucks, Apple, Mars, and Unilever.
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. also makes the list, clocking in at #20. Here’s a snippet from the company’s environmental statement:
…Renewable energy will play a key role in achieving carbon neutrality, as we have joined the RE100 initiative and will aim to use 100% renewable power to meet our global electricity needs by 2020. In 2015 we achieved renewable power use for 100% of our US, Canadian, and European operations.
That’s significant given that Trump has Goldman Sachs alumnus Steven Mnuchin to fill a key economic slot in his administration.
So maybe Pruitt won’t get much help after all, at least not in terms of stopping the clean power trend.
About Those Oklahoma Earthquakes…
One thing Pruitt does appear to excel at is turning a deaf ear to environmental concerns within his home state, namely, swarms of earthquakes linked to the practice of disposing oil and gas drilling wastewater into wells.
Seismic activity in this formerly quiet region has reached crisis proportions. The situation is so dire that it recently forced Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin — who is no friend of the Clean Power Plan — to issue emergency orders shutting wells over a large swath of territory.
The Pawnee Nation has also filed suit alleging illegal oil and gas activity on tribal land, but they’re fighting an uphill battle. Reports surfaced earlier this week that in his capacity as AG, Pruitt has deployed material written by the object of several lawsuits, Devon Energy.
Coincidentally, just this past week the US Geological Survey charted yet another swarm of earthquakes in Oklahoma.
The Keystone XL Effect
That thing about the Pawnee Nation is another key point. A groundswell of local protest against oil and gas activities in a number of US states has been building, and it has been meeting with some success.
Oil and gas fracking has been banned in New York State and several others, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline has been in suspended animation for years, and work on the almost-completed Dakota Access pipeline has also been suspended pending further environmental review.
The inclination to protest has been heating up for years, and the choice of Pruitt to head EPA has fanned the fire.
Even Governor Fallin has seen the writing on the wall. In terms of expanding the energy market, fossil fuel development is not the only game in town any more. Oklahoma is a leader in wind energy, and lately Fallin has been going out of her way to promote wind energy development including the new Plains & Eastern wind power transmission line.
Traditional Light Bulbs And Masturbating Fetuses
If anything qualifies Pruitt to be a member of the Trump cabinet, that would be his anti-abortion activity.
Restricting women’s health choices is one area in which Pruitt has established a solid track record, both as AG and as a former state legislator.
That’s no surprise. Climate change denial seems to share the same mental arena with the movement to restrict abortion, and Pruitt is a case in point.
What is it with these guys, anyways?
Image (screenshot): Recent earthquake activity in Oklahoma via USGS.