Sen. Susan Collins should join Sen. Angus King in pledging to reject Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
By Bill Houston
Portland Press Herald op-ed
KINGFIELD — Mainers hold clean air and water near and dear to their hearts. As a lifelong Mainer who trains young men and women to become outdoor leaders, I see this passion every day in person.
In fact, these values are staples of our state, and it is thanks to the leadership of Sens. Edmund Muskie and George Mitchell that Congress passed our country’s revered laws to protect them: the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. I urge Sen. Susan Collins to join with Sen. Angus King in pledging to reject Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, because our values are not his – he has a long and clear history of opposing efforts to clean our air and our water.
As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times. Two of these lawsuits (one filed in 2012, and the other filed last year) challenged efforts to reduce pollution by mercury and other airborne toxins.
In the Gulf of Maine, better mercury pollution standards have reduced the level of mercury found in tuna by 2 percent per year over eight years. However, mercury contamination continues to be a problem for people who consume fish, forcing the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to issue a fish consumption advisory for all inland Maine waters, including our most pristine northern lakes and ponds. Mercury poisoning affects the brain development of young children, which is why women who are pregnant and children under 8 are advised not to consume our wild fish.
The EPA administrator-designate came out against a rule to reduce haze pollution in our national parks, a standard that has significantly increased visibility in Acadia National Park since it was implemented in 1999. Pruitt has also opposed an effort to clarify the protections offered by the Clean Water Act, a proposal that would restore the scope of the 1972 law to cover nearly all of the bodies of water it did for its first 30 years, including the headwaters of iconic Maine waterways such as the Penobscot River.
There will always be differing opinions over the best and most efficient way to protect air and water in our country, but those opinions should not call into question the need to do so. Yet more troubling than Pruitt’s opposition to these common-sense pollution standards is his rejection of basic science.
In 2012, Pruitt sued the EPA for its “endangerment finding” – a science-based determination that greenhouse gases are pollutants that are harming our environment and public health and well-being by driving climate change. That consensus is shared by 97 percent of climate scientists and 11 national science academies. The science is settled that humans are primarily driving current climate change, yet that did not stop Pruitt from filing another lawsuit, opposing the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
This unprecedentedly poor record has led the National Wildlife Federation, of which I am a regional board member, to oppose a presidential nominee for the first time in our 80-year history. We strongly value a bipartisan commitment to conservation, which is why we are supporting Ryan Zinke to become the secretary of the interior. In our opposition to Pruitt, we join three Republican former EPA administrators (William Ruckelshaus, William Reilly and Christine Todd Whitman) who believe that Pruitt’s actions against the agency and outright questioning of science disqualify him from the position.
Maine’s values of clean air and clean water are not partisan; they are things we live and breathe every day. Clean air and water are also a huge economic driver, supporting 65,000 jobs and generating $5.3 billion in consumer spending every year in our state – so protecting our environment also protects our economy. That is why I was so pleased to see Sen. King announce his early opposition to Pruitt’s nomination. I urge Sen. Collins to join him in taking a principled stand against this nomination.
We must demonstrate to the rest of the country that Scott Pruitt’s values are not Maine’s values, and they are not America’s values. Sen. Collins should join a growing chorus of bipartisan voices opposing this nomination, and stand up for our state’s clean air and clean water. This important legacy cannot be put in the hands of a man who seems fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agency he is nominated to lead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bill Houston of Kingfield teaches outdoor leadership and skills at Somerset Career and Technical Center in Skowhegan. He is a Registered Maine Guide and a National Wildlife Federation regional board member.