Scott Pruitt: Help Wanted to Dismantle the EPA

By Sara Chieffo, Vice President of Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters

Scott Pruitt has made no secret of his plan to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency from the inside out. Since he took over in February, he’s made clear his allegiance to the polluting industries he is charged with regulating instead of to the health and safety of our families and communities. He’s worked to roll back numerous safeguards that protect our air and water, all while evidence of his questionable ethics continues to mount.

And now, Pruitt is aiming to fill four critical posts within the agency to push his radical agenda — Bill Wehrum, Michael Dourson, David Ross and Matt Leopold. All four share Pruitt’s favoritism for industry and disregard for conflicts of interest, and if confirmed, they’re sure to accelerate Pruitt’s quest to dismantle the EPA and endanger our families and communities.

Bill Wehrum, nominated for assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, has a long track record of putting polluting interests ahead of the public’s. In fact, this is the second time Wehrum has been nominated for this post. In 2007, his nomination was withdrawn over concerns with his dangerous record, and he should meet the same fate this time around given his history undermining the safeguards that protect against dangerous air pollution, like smog, mercury, and lead. During his previous tenure in the Office of Air and Radiation under President Bush, he was repeatedly admonished by federal courts for violating the plain language of the Clean Air Act, refusing to enforce its protections and granting unlawful exemptions that allowed polluters to dump pollution into our air. Additionally, he played a key role in writing the Bush administration’s legal defense for refusing to act to reduce dangerous carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. His strong ties to the industry, which includes serving as a lawyer for utilities and polluting energy companies, will greatly influence his new tenure at the EPA, ensuring that he will continue his decades-long career of attempting to roll back safeguards that protect the air we breathe, actions that pose significant risks to our health.

Like Wehrum, Michael Dourson, the nominee for assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, is also cozy with industry, leaving him more inclined to pad the pockets of chemical manufacturers than to protect families and children. His allegedly independent chemical testing firm, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, has received financial support and donations from the very companies that make the chemicals the firm is called upon to test. He has spent his career downplaying the health risks, particularly to children, of toxic chemicals, many of which have been tied to cancer, infertility, learning and behavioral disorders, and other major health concerns. For example, his firm was behind a website that downplayed the health risks of toxic substances present in household items and children’s toys while advancing industry interests. As the EPA implements the requirements of a newly-revised Toxic Substances Control Act, Dourson will shape U.S. chemical policy for decades to come, and it would be hard to pick a worse person for the job.

Both David Ross and Matt Leopold have spent their careers breaking down environmental protections in their respective states, criticizing the EPA, and weakening the agencies and departments responsible for enforcing environmental protections. And now, nominated for assistant administrator for the Office of Water and General Counsel, respectively, they’ll work hand-in-hand with Pruitt to weaken and gut the EPA. Under Ross’ leadership, the Environmental Protection Unit at the Wisconsin Department of Justice saw a significant decrease in staff, shrinking to its smallest size in 25 years. Sound familiar? Pruitt has shrunk the EPA to its lowest staffing levels in three decades. Without staff, including the enforcement cops on the beat, polluters will have free reign to pollute our waterways and destroy our wetlands, jeopardizing the clean water our families, communities, and economy depend on.

The bottom line is this: Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump want to decimate the EPA from the inside out, and the consequences for our health and environment will be disastrous. Like Pruitt, these four individuals have dangerous records, exhibiting a reckless favoritism for industry and corporate polluters that comes at the expense of public health. Like Pruitt, they’ve worked to reduce the capacity of offices to enforce environmental regulations. And like Pruitt, they’ve all expressed condemnation for the very existence of the EPA and desire to weaken it beyond recognition.

We urge senators to oppose these four nominees who we have every reason to believe will only help Scott Pruitt pursue his dangerous agenda. The health and safety of our communities depend on it.