Celebrating Pruitt’s departure ignores the danger of his replacement

The endemic corruption permeating Trump’s administration is so ridiculously mind boggling that describing the so-called “swamp” as a rotting special interest cesspool is an understatement. Trump and the GOP’s plan to hand the government over to special interests was glaringly apparent immediately after Trump’s poorly attended inauguration based on the insertion of special interests throughout the federal government.

It is safe to say that there are no federal agencies or departments in Trump’s cesspool that are not infested with greedy special interests or industry lobbyists intent on dismantling the organization they were tapped to lead into ruination. That particular outrage is best represented by evangelical malcontents Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt. In Pruitt’s case, the sworn enemy of environmental regulations is now the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the celebratory mood on the Left is curious indeed.

Although there is an abundance of glee that Pruitt was allegedly pushed out over a dozen or so ethics investigations, it is clear that cheering Pruitt’s exit as some kind of victory is incredibly foolish. Obviously the people celebrating Pruitt’s “removal” are unaware that his temporary replacement is just as hazardous to the environment, and Americans’ health and welfare, as Pruitt. The new anti-environment crusader will be much worse simply because he is a seasoned Washington insider and fossil fuel  industry lobbyist who knows how to achieve Trump’s goals without drawing attention to himself or Trump’s corrupt administration.

It was reported shortly after news of Pruitt’s exit as EPA head that the only reason he was “forced out” was the optics of one of Trump’s operatives being perpetually investigated for ethics violations  – not his job performance and not because he was an unethical cretin like his boss in the Oval Office. In fact, Trump has praised Pruitt profusely for decimating environmental regulations at the behest of the fossil fuel and chemical industries which is the only reason he was appointed in the first place. Who better to eviscerate environmental regulations, and dismantle they EPA, than a special interest puppet whose self-professed claim to fame was suing the federal agency he wanted abolished to sate the greed of the fossil fuel industry.

Now that Pruitt is no longer doing the heavy lifting for the Koch brothers et al, no sane American should breathe a sigh of relief that the EPA will suddenly fulfill its mandate and revert to protecting the environment and Americans’ health and welfare; especially not with a coal industry lobbyist running the show.

Despite the bluster and claims that he was decimating, especially “Obama-era,” environmental protections, by all accounts Scott Pruitt was as inept as he is corrupt and evangelically extreme. The man serving as acting EPA chief, Andrew Wheeler, is anything but incompetent. Of course he lacks whatever sense of ethical obligation to help protect his fellow Americans from the dirty filthy fossil fuel industry. That being the case, it should be no surprise that Wheeler shares Pruitt’s “passion” for completely deregulating the fossil fuel industry; he has spent the great majority of his lobbying career on behalf of the energy industry and, in particular, the dirty filthy coal companies. His particular speciality was lobbying Republicans to expedite the industry’s demand that Republicans “weaken federal regulations” if not abolish them with prejudice. Like Trump and Pruitt, Wheeler thinks he is smarter than 97 percent of the Earth’s scientist and denies the existential damage of ignoring global climate change.

As noted by many pundits and environmental activists, Wheeler is the epitome of a Washington insider who works “behind the scenes” to help “kill off regulations” the fossil fuel industry and other industrial polluters complain are restricting their profits. And unlike Pruitt, Wheeler will not be announcing which regulations protecting Americans’ water and air he just abolished. In effect, Wheeler will “reshape America’s environmental policies to benefit his powerful friends in the energy industry” at the expense of Americans’ health and welfare. Don’t believe it?

Even before being appointed as “acting” EPA chief, while Wheeler worked for Murray Energy he heavily lobbied the Department of Energy to start using taxpayer dollars to provide federal  subsidies for coal producers. Fortunately, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rightly “struck down the proposal” despite intense pressure from Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Wheeler was also part of the lobbying team that pushed Trump to open up Big Ears National Monument in Utah to a uranium mining company’s operation. Wheeler was a determined proponent of exempting industrial plants from adhering to pollution controls after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and he waged a ferocious battle to shield polluters from liability for the harm they caused by the release of toxic chemicals into the air and water.

Look, there is little doubt that Scott Pruitt, like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, did not represent the scum of the Trump administration cesspool; both because Pruitt is unethical and because his intent was only ever serving the special interests in the fossil fuel, chemical and manufacturing industries. Now, there is a very competent, behind the scenes, kind of scum that will fight against protecting the environment with the same zeal as his lobbying effort on behalf of the country’s largest private coal company. The results will be the demise of the nation’s environmental and public health regulations that Trump and the Koch brothers want eliminated. It is true no-one in their right mind will miss Scott Pruitt, but they will likely miss being aware of exactly what damage the head of the Environmental Protection Agency plans to wreak on the environment and the American people.

Federal Appeals Court Orders Trump’s EPA to Do Its Job

There is no doubt that when Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, avowed environmental protection enemy, to run the EPA, he expected the fossil fuel acolyte to put an immediate end to regulations targeting big oil; likely because those regulations protect Americans’ air and water. Pruitt did as expected and suspended various EPA regulations and restrictions including an important provision of the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) regulating dangerous and toxic greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Late Monday a federal appeals court issued a ruling against Pruitt’s EPA and ordered it to start enforcing restrictions on dangerous methane gas emissions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit formally vacated the agency’s 90-day stay of the NSPS because that “key [methane rule] provision” is the law; and despite what Pruitt or the oil industry claims, the rule “is in effect.”

The Court said the “leak detection and repair provisions” of the NSPS law were supposed to take effect  and “begin delivering significant benefits” on June 3. But two days after the law went into effect, the court said “the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unlawfully stayed these and other requirements of the rule retroactively from June 2 until August 31, 2017.” Pruitt did not have the authority to take that action and according to the court: “Pruitt and his industry allies have not offered any support for their proposition that complying with the law would cause significant hardship to the entities that had a year’s lead time to prepare.”

What the court did say, however, was that by ordering the stay of the rule, Pruitt’s EPA “is causing substantial additional methane, ozone-forming [volatile organic compounds], and hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde to be released into the air of communities near these wells.” It is telling that 9 of 11 judges on the appellate panel had to tell the agency tasked with protecting Americans from dangerous toxins and pollutants to do its job, protect Americans from dangerous toxins and pollutants, and stop helping the oil and gas industry pour more toxic material into the atmosphere. It is also noteworthy that a federal appeals court had to waste its time to tell the corrupt Trump administration that no matter what it believes, it still “must enforce federal environmental protection rules.”

An environmental advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a statement late Monday saying:

Administrator Pruitt tried to impose a 90-day suspension of the vital clean air standards without public input and without analysis of the public health or environmental consequences.

Pruitt actually intended on delaying implementation of the clean air and water rule for much longer than the 90 days it says the oil and gas industry needed to figure out how badly it would hurt profits. Pruitt proposed an additional two-year delay for implementation of the rule because the EPA needed extra time to discover what negative impacts it would have on the poor oil and gas industry. During that two-year delay, Pruitt said the oil and gas industry could just ignore the rule and continue poisoning the nation’s air and water.

To really get an idea of just how much contempt the Trump administration, and Pruitt specifically, have for the health and safety of the American people, the Environmental Defense Fund said Pruitt knew that any delay whatsoever would negatively impact Americans’ health.

The EDF noted that when the EPA announced it was delaying the rule’s implementation for two years, it acknowledged that it would make children in and around oil and gas drilling sites sick. But Pruitt argued “that more illness for only two years is acceptable” if it helps the oil and gas industry prosper.

It wasn’t acceptable to “people who showed up at EPA headquarters” early in July to protest the EPA’s intention to delay implementation of the “methane rule.”  But the new rule did more than just restrict methane emissions and it is noteworthy that it only affects new drilling operations or those under repair.

As the director of environment and health for “Physicians for Social Responsibility,” Barbara Gottlieb noted, sealing leaks and capturing methane at oil and gas wells would capture “all the toxic and hazardous air pollutants” inherent in oil and gas drilling operations;” not just methane. Ms. Gottlieb said that the implementing the rule would capture “volatile organic” compounds that “cause severe health issues for people” living near oil industry operations. “If you seal the leaks and capture the escaping gases, you get it all.

For Americans living in close proximity to oil and gas operations the Appeals court made the right decision they thought was the purview of the federal agency created and tasked with protecting Americans’ health and well-being. That concept of protecting the health of the people is an abomination to Trump’s anti-environmental protection crusader Scott Pruitt or he would not have put a halt to the EPA rule’s implementation.

It is astonishing that this is not the first time that the federal Judiciary has had to step in and order the federal government under Trump to enforce federal laws created to protect all Americans. What the court did not say in this instance was that Pruitt’s job as head of the EPA was not to protect the profits of the fossil fuel industry – the only reason he is running the EPA.