It’s the cold shower for all climatologists and ecology advocates. After having received the American “Mr. Climate” and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore, for an “extremely interesting” conversation, marked by “a sincere search for common ground”, Donald Trump decided, according to an official of his transition team, to appoint as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) … a notorious climate skeptic. The ultimate mark of Trumpian contempt for the protection of the environment.
Climate-skeptic, pro-oil, litigator… 6 things to know about Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s new “Mr. Ecology”.
The appointment of Republican Scott Pruitt must have brought down from their chairs the environmentalists who had believed in Donald Trump’s recent turnaround in the matter. Did he not assure the “New York Times” at the end of November, “I am watching this very closely. I remain open on this question”?
Alas, the appointment of Scott Pruitt promises a great step backwards on the part of the United States. His recent statements on the matter, in particular in the “National Review”, do not leave the slightest doubt: climate-skeptical, the 48-year-old Republican believes that the debate on climate change is “far from being closed”:
“Scientists continue to disagree on the degree and extent of global warming and its link to human action. This debate should be encouraged in classrooms, public forums and in Congress. not be silent on this subject by threatening prosecution. Dissent is not a crime. “
Unsurprisingly, the announcement of his appointment, still unofficial, has already sparked outrage from conservationists, including Senator Bernie Sanders, former candidate for the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton. In a statement, he lamented:
“At a time when climate change poses the greatest environmental threat to the entire planet, it is sad and dangerous that Mr. Trump has appointed Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA.
Mr. Pruitt not only said he did not believe in climate change, but he is also someone who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent on this source of energy. “
Trump’s choice to lead EPA doesn’t just deny climate change, he’s worked with oil & gas companies to make us more dependent on fossil fuels.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) Dec. 7, 2016
2“Keeping our air and water clean and safe”
Scott Pruitt “will restore the EPA’s core mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe,” said Donald Trump.
“My administration strongly believes in protecting the environment and Scott Pruitt will be a strong advocate for this mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity.”
“For too long and out of control, the EPA has spent taxpayer dollars on an anti-energy program that has destroyed millions of jobs and also harmed our great farmers and many other businesses all over the place.” , stressed Donald Trump, quoted in the official nomination press release.
“Americans are tired of seeing billions of dollars being taken out of the economy because of unnecessary EPA regulations and I intend, as the head of this agency, to both strengthen protection for the economy. ‘responsible environment and freedom for American businesses,’ said Scott Pruitt.
From Scott Pruitt’s point of view, seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is indeed a danger to the American economy. Starting with the state of which he was the Minister of Justice for most of his career: Oklahoma. A state which derives 50% of its wealth from oil exploitation, according to “Le Monde”.
A state also at the forefront of … shale gas, which causes repeated earthquakes there, due to the enormous volumes of water injected into the ground by hydraulic fracturing.
At the forefront of the protest against the Obama administration’s policy in terms of ecology, Scott Pruitt naturally became the armed wing of the oil companies to fight against regulations in terms of energy extraction.
Obviously, it’s a give and take: in 2013, recalls “the World” Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, a large oil company based in Oklahoma, had thus participated directly in Scott Pruitt’s election campaign, for the re-elect Attorney General.
4Legal battle against … the agency he will lead
The US Environmental Protection Agency is an independent agency attached to the US government. It was created in 1970. Its mission: “to protect human health and the environment”.
Blocked by a Republican Congress for several years, Barack Obama finally turned in August 2015 to the referendum route, to push through despite everything his “Clean Power Plan”. Designed by the EPA, this plan requires power plants to drastically reduce their CO2 emissions, by 32% by 2030 compared to 2005.
As “Le Monde” explains, the Obama administration considered itself within its rights, due to a judgment rendered by the same Supreme Court in 2007, which stipulated that carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is a pollutant, and that the agency is therefore founded, under the Clean Air Act adopted in 1970, to control its emissions.
That was without counting the slingshot of many Republican attorneys general, starting with Scott Pruitt, who accuses the EPA of having “a militant program,” as his LinkedIn page shows.
Pruitt and his fellow Republicans therefore attacked the EPA regulations, in court, believing that the action of the EPA constitutes an attack on the sovereignty of the States. Their fight, still ongoing today, led the Supreme Court to suspend Barack Obama’s plan in February 2016. A real halt for the Democratic administration and a victory for the Attorney General of Oklahoma and his twenty friends (representing 28 of the American states).
A federal court must now rule on the subject, before the case is eventually decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, which is still not complete since the death of Judge Antonin Scalia.
5Charybde et Scylla ?
Scott Pruitt is not Donald Trump’s first “Mr. Ecology”. At the end of November, the Trump team had also decided to entrust Myron Ebell with the mission of thinking about the future of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ideologically very close to Scott Pruitt, this other notorious climate-skeptic, to whom “the World” had devoted a portrait, set out to challenge in Washington the reality of the influence of man in global warming, for that the “debate” continues …
Employed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) think tank, he is considered close to the Koch brothers, libertarian billionaires who, the daily recalls, have built their fortunes in oil, coal, finance and chemicals.
Definitely in all the “good” moves, Myron Ebell was also a defender of the tobacco industry, in the years 1990, and an opponent of the law of protection of endangered animal species …
But it’s not over: Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson could also become Secretary of State in the Trump administration!
6Rejected by his own camp?
However, nothing has yet been done for Scott Pruitt because his appointment must be confirmed by parliamentarians, which would not go without saying, according to the future Democratic leader in the Senate, Charles Schumer:
“His reluctance to accept the facts or the science of climate change couldn’t make him more out of touch with the American people and reality.”
For her part, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, program manager of the “Natural Resources Defense Council” (NRDC), which has 2.5 million members, warns that since the election “there is a real movement of support, with a growing number of people joining us to fight against any potential dismantling of environmental protections “.
“People are also inundating congressional officials with emails and together we are preparing a petition that will be sent to Mr. Trump to let him know that Americans do not want the environment to be turned back.”
Enough to push some Republicans in Congress to reject this nomination? To confirm…