A consistent ally of polluters, Scott Pruitt could undo environmental laws without due legislative process.
Portland Press Herald editorial
Maine’s climate is changing. You can see it in the native species that have been crowded out by invasive green crabs in places where the water used to be too cold. It’s behind the tick infestation that is killing off moose calves. It’s the reason for warmer, wetter winters that make it harder to work in the woods.
A warmer ocean has wiped out the last two shrimp seasons, and warming inland has disappointed ice fishermen, who have canceled visits to Maine. It also threatens the signature inshore lobster fishery, and will demand huge infrastructure investments in coastal communities to adapt to rising sea levels.
The question in Maine is not whether there is climate change, but what to do about it.
That’s why the U.S. Senate should reject the nomination of Scott Pruitt to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. We applaud Sen. Angus King for his principled stand against the Pruitt nomination, and we encourage Sen. Susan Collins to join him.
The case against Pruitt became clear during his confirmation hearing last week. He doesn’t just represent a different view on what the EPA should do – he is opposed to the mission of the agency itself.
This is an important distinction: President Trump won the election, and he should be expected to name different people to his Cabinet than Hillary Clinton would have if she had won. Trump’s views on regulation were part of what voters chose when they selected him to be president.
But he should not be able to use his appointment powers to undo laws on the books without going through the legislative process. That is the danger the Pruitt nomination presents.
As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the federal government to prevent the enforcement of environmental laws. One of his letters to the government, King said Thursday, was almost entirely written by an oil and gas company.
Pruitt argues that he is not necessarily against environmental regulation, but says he is a federalist who believes that states should write their own.
That shouldn’t sit well with people in Maine, where our biggest air pollution problems are created elsewhere. Because we are downwind of dirty coal-fired power plants in other states, we have persistent air quality problems, and there is nothing that a local regulation can do about it. There is also the issue of climate change, which cannot be effectively addressed on a state-by-state level.
Which makes Pruitt’s evasive answer on climate change very troubling. While he acknowledges that Earth is getting warmer – how could he not? – and says that temperature is influenced by human behavior, he claims that there is a legitimate dispute on the amount of influence, which leaves him enough wiggle room to prevent effective enforcement of environmental regulations – to the benefit of the polluters.
We don’t have time for inaction. There may be valid disagreement about what would be the best way to reduce carbon emissions, but there is not room for debating whether it is worth doing.
The oil companies have a right to pay lobbyists to represent their interests in Washington. They shouldn’t have a lobbyist at the helm of the EPA. The Senate should make sure that there is someone in charge of the agency who is committed to protecting the environment and carrying out the laws.