EPA Chief Gears up to Kill Planet: Requests Bodyguards
April 12, 2017
If the government is cruel, the governor’s life is not safe. – Emerson
Scott Pruitt knows exactly what he’s doing, and he has some big plans for you.
He apparently knows that, if you’re going to be serious about killing and poisoning people’s children, you better get some protection.
While the draft budget for the EPA obtained by the Washington Post this month shows massive cuts to environment, health, and climate change programs—including the elimination of a program to prevent childhood exposure to lead paint—it also includes a request to hire 10 additional security guards to create an around-the-clock personal security detail for Pruitt, the New York Times reports.
The Times calls it a first for an EPA chief, and notes that the 10 additional agents would more than double the agency’s current security staff, which has hovered between six and eight agents in recent years. Similarly, security detail for education secretary Betsy DeVos has reached unprecedented levels: Typically, the secretary of education is guarded by about six agents from within the Department of Education. Since her contentious confirmation, DeVos has been under the protection of the US Marshals Service, costing $8 million over eight months.
Famously, Mr. Pruitt, with no science background himself, second guesses the overwhelming consensus on climate change. But that’s just the beginning. In Mr Pruitt’s universe, toxic poisons, like asbestos, are innocent until proven guilty.
One of the most important pieces of legislation passed last year was the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The Act overhauls the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was passed in 1976. The TSCA “grandfathered” in thousands of chemicals that were in use at the time, and the EPA had no framework to evaluate the safety of those chemicals.
On January 13, the EPA began this much needed process of evaluation to make sure that Americans are not exposed to toxic chemicals.
At his Senate hearing, Mr. Pruitt did pledge to uphold the Frank R. Lautenberg Act, but his answers on asbestos were flavored by his hallmark reticence of information. Consider the following telling exchange between Senator Markey (D-MA):
Sen. Markey: Asbestos is banned in 55 countries across the globe and the World Health Organization says, quote, “all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans”. More than 30 Americans die each day from diseases like asbestosis and cancer caused by asbestos . . . Do you agree with Mr. Trump that asbestos is 100 percent safe once applied or that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob?
Hon. Mr. Pruitt: Asbestos has been identified by the EPA as a high-priority chemical that requires a risk evaluation following the process established by the Lautenberg Act to determine whether conditions of use of the chemical substance pose an unreasonable risk. Prejudging the outcome of that risk evaluation process would not be appropriate.
It’s a strange and dodgy answer, given that the science is very clear on the dangers posed by asbestos. If Mr. Pruitt is in charge of the EPA, it’s hard not to think that big business will have a hand in the evaluation process. There is just too much at stake to let this happen.
In the past few years, he has cast doubt on one of the central findings of climate science. He has sued the EPA to block it from enforcing rules against regional smog and airborne mercury pollution. At one point, he copy-and-pasted a letter from an oil company onto official state letterhead, added his signature, and mailed it to the agency he will soon run.
He even has a long-running kerfuffle about chickenshit. Drew Edmondson, Pruitt’s predecessor, alleged that Tyson Foods and other poultry companies were dumping too much chicken manure into the Illinois River. The river had become choked with toxic algae. But after becoming attorney general in 2011, Pruitt dropped that case, downgrading it to a voluntary investigation. He simultaneously dismantled his office’s in-house environmental-protection unit. The poultry industry later donated at least $40,000 to his reelection campaign.
Amid all of this, though, some critics have focused on an environmental problem of a more cinematic variety: human-made earthquakes.
Oklahoma has been ailed this decade by an “induced-earthquake” problem, the consequences of which have wrecked walls, windows, and property values around the state. In a normal year—that is, in almost any before 2009—the state only saw one or two quakes. It now experiences one to two quakes per day. In 2015, it endured 857 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher, more than struck the rest of the lower 48 states combined.
These tremors are not naturally occurring. They are caused by wastewater injection, a process in which million of gallons of salty water are pumped deep underground. This water is often a by-product of fracking, the natural-gas mining process that has spread across the country and revolutionized the U.S. energy industry.
During Pruitt’s time as attorney general, Oklahoma developed the worst human-made-earthquake problem in the country. The state as a whole was slow to deal with the problem, and, for many years, it did not admit the quakes had a human origin. After that, it neglected to rapidly slow the rate of wastewater injection. This has allowed medium-scale earthquakes to continue: In November, a 5.0-magnitude quake damaged the structures of downtown Cushing, Oklahoma.