|Scott Pruitt's EPA nomination will be voted on by the Senate today|
The GOP leadership is delusional in its practice of throwing heavy blankets over climate change reality. It may claim to be independent of the Trump White House mess, but the one place their collaboration is secure; the elimination of federal environmental law.
For the entire thirty years I have been an environmental activist and writer, the EPA has been mainly a promise, a hope, an aspirational force. Citizens have often had to use the federal courts to get the EPA to do its job, in cases where political pressure from Congress and the White House has inhibited the agency.
That's the case in Florida, with polluted water.Citizens have also had to litigate to define the role of the federal government versus the states on many environmental fronts, including energy. In fact, the entire GOP Congressional delegation, lead by Senator Marco Rubio, has been in constant antagonism with the goals of the EPA; against federal protections for the Everglades and against federal measures to strengthen Florida's historically weak water pollution laws that favor big campaign contributors from commodity producers like Big Sugar.
As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt has been on the other side, or, the same side as Florida's polluters. He sued EPA fourteen times in federal court to limit the agency's authority, on behalf mostly of the state's most powerful industries tied to fossil fuel production.
In this way, Pruitt represents not only special interests who define "the swamp"; he also represents wealthy billionaires who profit when the climate loses. When the climate loses, we lose big time.
Through the confirmation process, Pruitt's main ally in Congress has been Oklahoma senator James Inhofe. If the ignominy of U.S. legislators who blocked the nation from responding to the existential threat from climate change, Inhofe ranks worst. As the Republican leader of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee throughout the Bush terms, Inhofe not only ridiculed climate change, he also put great pressure on EPA political appointees to inhibit the agency from doing its job.
In recent days, Democrats in the US Senate have desperately tried to persuade Republicans to require Pruitt to disclose thousands of emails he and his staff have hidden, related to his anti-environmental record in Oklahoma. In spite of fierce public pressure, the Republicans appear serenely aimed to confirm the worst EPA chief in the agency's history. Yesterday, it was disclosed that Pruitt's chief of staff closely coordinated "soft ball" questions from Senator Inhofe on water regulations.
Meanwhile the statistics -- that the GOP ignores -- pour in: according to NOAA, an agency under the EPA umbrella -- January temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.58°F above the 20th century average of 53.6°F. This was the second highest for January in the 1880–2017 record, behind 2016 (highest).
The Arctic north has been roiled, all winter, by temperatures 30 - 50 degrees above normal. Glacial ice for this time of year is at the lowest extent ever measured. Although the Rockies snowpack is high this winter, temperature patterns have been freakish. I was in Utah's Wasatch range last week, at 12,000 feet, where the afternoon temperature in February was 53 degree Fharenheit. Unheard of.
Last week in Magnum, Oklahoma -- in the dead of winter -- the daily temperature reached nearly 100 degrees: twice the historical average.
|Oklahoma temperature, last week: off the charts but GOP continues to deny climate change|
The New York Times reported yesterday, "Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency have been calling their senators to urge them to vote on Friday against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s contentious nominee to run the agency, a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages turbulent times ahead for the E.P.A. Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in E.P.A. offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting — by a president who has vowed to “get rid of” it."
I can't begin to explain how extraordinary it is for EPA staff to break from tradition this way: it is a signal that things are desperately wrong in the Trump WH, but also a signal that scientists and professionals are under attack at precisely a point in history where public policies need to focus intently on protecting people and the economy, not rigid orthodoxies that destroy democracy and will destroy jobs. EPA staffers are so alarmed, they secured an independent server site and published the agency website as it existed before Trump, so that citizens will be able to compare the changes after. These are dark days for the nation and for the world.
With climate change, there are no alternative facts. We wasted decades since scientists first defined the problem of the atmosphere over-saturated with greenhouse gases. With Trump and Scott Pruitt, and apparently with the support of US Senator Marco Rubio, that wastefulness will be memorialized for history and all time. Sad!