In Brief
  • The Senate voted today, Feb. 17th, to confirm Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The 52-46 vote was along party lines. All Republicans except one voted for Pruitt, while all Democrats except two voted against him.

Leading the Environment

The Senate just confirmed Scott Pruitt, a man who has been very critical of the EPA, as the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If you aren’t familiar with the agency, the EPA exists as a federal measure to protect human health and the environment. The agency oversees regulations for corporations and other organizations in order to ensure that the needs of the environment are taken into consideration.

Thus, it is a necessary piece to a fully functioning government (and biosphere).

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Republicans have been trying to curtail the reach of the EPA for some time, a move which Pruitt has supported. Previously, he vowed to curb the EPA’s regulatory reach once in office.

This promise is in line with the moves made by other republicans. Case in point, on Friday February 3, republican Florida congressman Matt Gaetz presented the bill H.R.861, which would eliminate the EPA and, instead, focus efforts on preserving jobs. Kentucky representative Thomas Massie, a republican, supported this move, noting that “The EPA makes rules that undermine the voice of the American people and threaten jobs in Kentucky.”

Today’s vote was largely along party lines, coming in at 52-46.

Also of note is the fact that this decision comes just a day after a federal judge ruled that the Oklahoma attorney general’s office (Pruitt was the attorney general in the state) must turn over some 3,000 emails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies, which have an enormous presence in his state.

Several congressmen spoke out against the confirmation, noting Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry and his history of favoring, what they call, the special interests of corporations over the public and the needs of the environment.

“Mr. Pruitt has extreme environmental policy views. And he has zero experience running an environmental protection agency. In fact, he does not believe in the fundamental mission of EPA,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico. “Attorney General Pruitt made his name opposing EPA rules that protect human health and the environment, fighting against clean air and clean water, disregarding the science behind the EPA’s protections for human health and the environment, on behalf of for-profit special interests, not the public interest.”

“This Trump administration has nominated as administrator at the EPA a tool of the fossil fuel industry, a man who demonstrably will not take his government responsibilities seriously because he never has,” stated Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) “He has never taken EPA’s responsibility seriously. He has done nothing but sue them.”

Of course, there are many who are not displeased with this confirmation.

“He’s exceptionally qualified,” said republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “He’s dedicated to environmental protection. And, as someone with state government experience, he understands the real-world consequences of EPA actions and knows that balance is the key to making policies that are sustainable over the long-term.”

A Warming Reality

However, it is important to remember that, regardless of who is heading the EPA (or whether or not it even exists), the science is sound and irrefutable: Human-made climate change remains part of our daily reality, a reality which is progressively worsening.

Earth’s temperatures have been consistently warming. Despite political pushback from those who deny climate change, the actual effects of anthropogenic (manmade) climate change continue.

But there is good reason to hope for a cleaner and cooler tomorrow.

Renewable energy sources continue to become more affordable and widespread, while their fossil fuel counterparts continue to increase in cost and decrease in usage. Individuals could argue that this is due to increased mining and emissions regulations, or government incentives for clean energy, but they’d be wrong.

For the first time since the Energy Information Agency (EIA) began tracking energy consumption way back in 1950, coal will not be the dominant source of energy in the U.S. (that distinction goes to natural gas). While the EIA cites environmental regulations as playing a “secondary role” in the decline of coal, the primary factor is cost.

The death of fossil fuels is coming. True, it can’t come fast enough if the environment is going to have any chance of bouncing back against man-made climate change…but we are on our way.