An Open Letter to Senators weighing the confirmation of Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt must not be confirmed to head the EPA.

To any Senator of the 115th Congress weighing the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA:

Scott Pruitt is the wrong choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is fair to object to the unintended consequences of individual environmental regulations or to question the efficacy of regulatory approaches. Yet it is a different matter entirely to oppose environmental regulations wholesale in the manner of Mr. Pruitt.

During his tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General, Mr. Pruitt oversaw the dismantling of his office’s environmental protection unit and sued the very agency he has been nominated to lead. Mr. Pruitt was more than willing to abandon a case against poultry companies in which chicken manure runoff polluted the Illinois River in his state, but never thought to exercise the power of his office to investigate oil drilling operations in his state that have induced thousands of earthquakes and caused property damage to his own constituents. Instead, Mr. Pruitt used his time to oppose EPA measures limiting ozone and mercury that are intended to protect the health of the people of his state; he has exercised the power of his station by delivering anti-regulation spiels written by oil companies to the federal government under the letterhead of his office. Mr. Pruitt used his position in Oklahoma to benefit drilling operations rather than the people of his state and there is little reason to believe that his modus operandi will change if he becomes the head of the EPA.

Environmental regulations don’t exist to unduly burden businesses. They exist to make sure that businesses don’t pass the environmental, economic, and human health costs of their activities onto the public. They exist not just to protect the environment, but to protect us. Dirty water and dirty air have a cost: just ask the residents of Flint struggling to recover from their poisoned water, the families of the hundreds of thousands who die of lung cancer in China each year due to smog, or homeowners who live along the Louisiana and Florida coasts, where the ocean eats a little more of the land every year. It is impossible to argue that carcinogens in our food, smog in our lungs, and the myriad of negative effects of climate change are not a cost and burden on society. Mr. Pruitt has consistently refused to recognize that these environmental problems have a human cost; if he is aware of these costs, he’s signaled that he’s more than willing to trade away our health for more money in the pockets of himself and his friends.

Senator, the people you represent will suffer if you allow Mr. Pruitt to head the EPA. Your constituents will suffer when their health is compromised because Mr. Pruitt is unwilling to enforce regulations meant to ensure clean water for drinking and clean air for breathing. They will suffer because a state attorney general unwilling to investigate earthquakes caused by fracking in his state will most likely be an EPA head unwilling to address streams in West Virginia poisoned by mining wastewater and hesitant to enforce limits on carbon emissions to curb climate change. They will suffer because their children will live in an unpredictable climate that will reshape geography, compromise food security and public health, and feed political unrest around the world. Do not condemn them, Senator. Do not condemn our air and our water, just so that a few businesses can skip their responsibilities of taking care of the messes that they create. Mr. Pruitt is the wrong man to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and you must deny him your vote.