This is What the EPA Gag Order Really Means

The Trump administration has made clear moves to inhibit the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency. The extent to which these decisions will prove dangerous to public health and safety is still in the air as decisions are made. President Trump’s choice in Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA could prove indicative to the administration’s ultimate goals.

These administrative measures also directly violate the EPA’s scientific integrity policy, which was created under President Barack Obama with the intent to protect “sound, high quality science.” Over 30 environmental rules in the Federal Register were subject to delayed implementation, including renewable fuel standards and improved pollution rulings for a number of states.

But this is not surprising considering Mr. Trump’s views on climate change, as well as his views of the EPA.

After all, he once called global warming a “hoax,” and claimed that the Chinese invented climate change — which he later claimed was only a joke in a segment with Fox & Friends. He has also notably installed a host of climate change deniers into administrative and cabinet positions in the days following his inauguration.

In terms of the Paris climate accord — an aggressive effort in the reduction of carbon emissions by more than 190 countries — Mr. Trump has said he is “not a big fan,” since he claims the deal treats the United States unfairly and gives preference to countries like China. “At a minimum,” he once claimed, “I will be renegotiating those agreements.” This suggestion would require the endorsement of 195 countries to achieve approval.

He went further in May 2016 to claim that the U.S. would pull out from the Paris agreement, though it is uncertain as to whether that assertion has any real legitimacy, particularly since 194 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have signed the treaty — 132 of which have ratified it. The Paris accord acquired legal force once it was ratified by the 55 countries that contribute to 55 percent of global emissions.

It is also clear that President Trump has intentions of using executive orders to refashion the EPA with the intent to limit or cut environmental regulations.

How Does Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt Tie In?

One of the EPA’s listed goals is to “ensure that federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively.”

In addition to the exercised restrictions on the EPA, President Trump’s choice to head the EPA — who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 17 — Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, is already in conflict with this and other basic tenets of the agency.

EPA
Scott Pruitt. (Credit: Source.)

He is one of a group of U.S. attorney generals to file a lawsuit against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the chief Obama-era policy intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. Pruitt also sued the EPA over regulations seeking to decrease emissions of methane from the oil and gas sector.

In fact, Pruitt has sued the EPA over 14 times and is currently involved in the Clean Power Plan suit. Thus far, his lawsuits against the EPA have failed, but the proverbial tables could turn should he see Senate confirmation.

In 2014, The New York Times reported that Pruitt’s staff copied almost verbatim — onto state government stationary — a letter opposing EPA regulations. The letter was written by lawyers for Oklahoma-based oil and gas company Devon Energy. The plagiarized letter was then sent to the agency with Pruitt’s signature as the official position of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

Pruitt was the recipient of significant sums from fossil fuel interests during his runs for office. For example, during his unopposed run for reelection in 2014, Pruitt raised $114,000 from energy company PACs and executives — or about 14 percent of his total fundraising. Within that $114,000 is $5,000 from Devon’s PAC and $100 from William Whitsitt, a Devon executive who applauded Pruitt’s deceptive letter to the EPA as “outstanding,” according to the New York Times report.

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