On Friday afternoon, the Senate narrowly confirmed anti-climate change Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ironically, Pruitt is a long-time critic of the EPA and has spent his career attempting to weaken the agency. Now that he has been confirmed as its head, its future is uncertain.
The New York Times reports that the vote to confirm Scott Pruitt mostly fell along party lines.
“Senators voted 52-46 to confirm Mr. Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has built a career out of suing to block the E.P.A.’s major environmental rules, and has called for the dissolution of much of the agency’s authority.”
Only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, voted against Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA, but even that was not enough. Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Manchin III (D-WV), whose states depend heavily on coal and fossil fuels, voted to confirm Pruitt. Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana refrained from voting. Arizona Senator John McCain skipped the vote, preferring to attend a conference in Germany he had scheduled months ago over that of Pruitt’s EPA confirmation vote.
Although he has voted to protect vital resources and wildlife, McCain last month tweeted his support for Pruitt.
“Good mtg w/ OK AG Scott Pruitt today — look fwd to working together to rein-in fed’l overreach of Obama Admin’s @EPA”
Scott Pruitt’s confirmation to head the EPA bodes ill for the future of environmental and wildlife protection. Indeed, in his own home state of Oklahoma, the city of Mangum experienced 100-degree weather just last week — in the middle of winter — when temperatures for the town average about 56 degrees at this time of year.
Oklahoma is also the same state climate change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe represents, and Inhofe is also the same senator who brought a snowball into the Senate in an effort to “prove” climate change is not real. What Inhofe fails to grasp — or willfully ignores — is that climate change doesn’t just mean hotter temperature, although that is one major indicator. According to the EPA website, indicators of climate change also include more extreme weather patterns, more intense cold spells, and “regional changes in floods, droughts, and wildfires.”
Inhofe publicly expressed support of Pruitt as head of the EPA last December in a statement on his official Senate web page.
“Scott Pruitt has been a leader and a partner on environmental issues for many years. Pruitt has fought back against unconstitutional and overzealous environmental regulations like Waters of the U.S. and the Clean Power Plan; he has proven that being a good steward of the environment does not mean burdening tax payers and businesses with red tape.”
According to the Weather Channel, the southern plains experienced an “all-time record” heat wave due to southwestern winds out of Mexico and south winds from the Gulf of Mexico. Portions of West Texas also experienced 90-degree weather, and the EPA has blamed the steadily climbing temperatures on human activities.
— Jonathan Erdman (@wxjerdman) February 12, 2017
Democrats urged Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to delay Pruitt’s confirmation vote until next Tuesday to give them time to review emails Pruitt’s office was ordered to release that pertain to his communication with the fossil fuel industry. Opponents of Pruitt believe that damning evidence lies within the 3,000 emails that could have rendered him ineligible to lead the agency he has spent most of his professional life trying to dismantle. Of course, McConnell refused to delay the vote, and Pruitt was confirmed despite serious questions about his ties to the fossil fuel industry as well as his climate change skepticism.
With Scott Pruitt at the helm of the EPA, environmental scientists and activists worry that he will undermine the agency’s ability to mitigate the effects of human activity on an ever-warming planet. Given his record against solar power, water protection, and pro-fossil fuel stance, it is more likely than not that environmental concerns will suffer under his tenure.
[Featured image by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images]