Commentary

03.03.17

What Does President Trump’s EPA Pick Mean for Civil Liberties?

By

Hands in jail cell

On February 17, the United States Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. This is the first step in what will likely be a complete overhaul of the agency, given his outspoken criticism of environmental regulations and protections.

Pruitt previously served as an Oklahoma state senator for eight years, and as the state’s attorney general for six, during which the Center for Media and Democracy filed nine requests in 2015 to view his communications with coal, oil, and gas industries under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act. On February 14, he provided only 411 of the 3,000 documents—two years after they were initially requested.

Avoiding the law has dire consequences for the environment. One of the leading causes of climate change is the United States’ reliance on oil, gas, and coal for energy, instead of transitioning to clean energy sources such as wind and solar.

The American people have a right to open government and transparency, which Pruitt clearly has no intention of respecting.

The ACLU of Oklahoma, National ACLU, and the Center for Media and Democracy sued Pruitt in order to prevent the destruction of the requested documents. Senate Democrats hoped this would postpone his confirmation hearing. However, the Senate, having only seen a fraction of the documents, voted to confirm.

Pruitt received campaign donations of $350,000 from oil, gas, and coal industries. A bipartisan group of hundreds of current and former EPA employees urged Senators to reject Pruitt’s nomination because of these relationships to business and his disregard for environmental law. Pruitt’s confirmation will only exacerbate an already-dangerous situation (not to mention his extensive record of anti-LGBT and civil rights policies).

Pruitt’s ties to coal, oil, and gas industries were confirmed in over 6,000 pages of documents. If Scott Pruitt is known to favor the fossil fuel industries and hides it, can we be sure he will serve the public’s interest?

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