Scott Pruitt is Wrong for the EPA

Ninety-eight percent of climate scientists believe that human activity — the way we live, the way we travel, the way we create and use energy — is responsible for a change in the Earth’s climate. Unchecked, this climate change will create a much different and challenging world for our children and grandchildren. Reducing and removing greenhouse gas emissions spares our planet from the well-documented degradation that we are witnessing on a global basis.

However, there is only one major political party in the world today that disagrees with the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change — its standard-bearer is now President of the United States, and his nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made a career of weakening environmental protections.

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt repeatedly challenged the Agency’s authority to regulate pollution, and still questions basic scientific conclusions about the harmful nature of CO2 gas emissions. The Republican-controlled Congress has begun its assault on the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act by demanding a litany of votes to repeal environmental rules promulgated by the Obama Administration.

There are many other cases where Scott Pruitt has not demonstrated a clear ability or interest in protecting Americans’ health. For example, when asked if there was any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body, Pruitt said that is something he has not reviewed. The answer is simple: no amount of lead is safe for our children. Right now, we need a strong leader who knows that lead is dangerous and who is committed to removing this hazard from our water and our homes.

Several years ago I learned about the S.S.Badger, a coal-fired auto ferry, which crosses Lake Michigan between Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Ludington, Michigan. For decades, this ship dumped toxic coal ash into the Lake as it traveled back and forth. It was literally the environmentally dirtiest ship on the Great Lakes. The Badger’s lawyers fought the EPA and appealed to Congress to write an exception into the federal law exempting the ship and allowing it to continue contaminating the Lake. But environmentalists and I took on the S.S. Badger and its owners, and over a span of years we prevailed. The Badger just completed its first full year under the new guidelines. Instead of dumping coal ash in the lake, for the first time in the history of their business, the S.S. Badger holds the waste for safe disposal on land. It took an EPA regulation and years of legal battles to achieve this historic result, but it was worth it.

There is no question that the federal government sometimes overdoes it in issuing rules and regulations. But in our zeal to rein in over-regulation we need to be thoughtful in realizing that even the Ten Commandments needed the New Testament to detail the acceptable limits of human activity.

Many of us hoped that the invitation from President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, to global warming guru, Al Gore, to sit down with her father would result in a more moderate approach to environmental issues. But it is now clear that it will take more than a cup of tea and a couple tweets to rein in the right-wing think tanks, Koch brothers, and science deniers who are measuring the drapes in offices all over Washington right now.

Without clear Presidential leadership, we need to educate the public and organize a grassroots effort that translates a global challenge into local and state agenda.

So whether it’s saving the Great Lakes or sparing ten thousand kids in Flint, Michigan, from the brain damage associated with lead contaminated drinking water, it’s time for the sensible center in America to resist the extreme voices now in ascendance in Washington. That resistance must stay loud to keep the pressure on Congress to hold the EPA accountable. I will vote against Scott Pruitt and work to ensure vigorous oversight of his Agency.

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