Monday, July 31, 2017

I Know it Sounds Strange But Scott Pruitt Is In A Race To Destroy Planet Earth

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Who wouldn't be attracted to Jeff Goodell's excellent piece in the new Rolling Stone, Scott Pruitt's Crimes Against Nature. It would be impossible to make a short list of Trump's worst appointments and leave off Pruitt. As Goodell emphasizes, he's gutting the EPA, defunding science and serving the fossil-fuel industry that has underwritten his entire career. And Pruitt is proud of all the damage he's doing.
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wants you to know that he was responsible for persuading President Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Pruitt has never said that explicitly, of course – he understands that if he wants to keep his job, he needs to pretend that the decision was Trump's alone. But Pruitt did everything he could to telegraph to the world that he thought Paris was a bad deal for America, and urged Big Coal executives to make their views known to the president as well. Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, was lobbied equally hard by major business leaders and some of his own advisers, including his daughter Ivanka and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to stay in the agreement. But Pruitt, aligned with White House chief strategist and populist provocateur Steve Bannon, won the fight. And when Trump announced the decision to withdraw from Paris in the White House Rose Garden on June 1st, Pruitt was the only Cabinet official who spoke at the ceremony. "We owe no apologies to other nations for our environmental stewardship," Pruitt said in a strikingly defiant tone.

In the following days, Pruitt was all over the media, taking bows on Fox News and sparring with Jake Tapper and Joe Scarborough. He argued that the agreement would slow the U.S. economy by hindering America's God-given right to mine, export and burn fossil fuels, even suggesting the agreement was part of a plot by European leaders to weaken America. "The reason European leaders . . . want us to stay in is because they know it will continue to shackle our economy," he said on CNBC. At one press conference, he claimed that 50,000 new coal jobs had been created by the Trump administration since the beginning of the year-- a fake fact he refused to correct. (There are only about 51,000 miners in the entire coal industry; according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1,000 new jobs have been created in the coal industry this year as of June.)

...While the rest of the Trump administration has been mired in scandal or incompetence (or both), and the media has been distracted by the Republican health care debacle and daily revelations about the Trump family's involvement with the Russians, Pruitt has been quietly tearing down decades of environmental progress. "If there was ever an example of the fox guarding the henhouse, this is it," says Michael Mann, a noted climate scientist at Penn State University. "We have a Koch-brothers-connected industry shill who is now in charge of climate and environmental policy for the entire country."

The mission statement of the EPA is simple: "to protect human health and the environment." It says nothing about promoting economic development or energy security or the glory of fossil fuels. But Pruitt has already carried out an impressive list of corporate favors: He rejected the advice of EPA scientists and approved the use of millions of pounds of a toxic pesticide that causes neurological damage in children; in a gift to Big Coal, he delayed tougher ozone air-pollution rules; he plotted to kill Obama's signature climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan, designed to put America on track to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030; he rescinded the Clean Water Rule, allowing countless streams and rivers to be exempted from pollution controls; he undermined regulations on the release of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, from power plants and other sources; and he submitted a budget that would wipe out more than a third of the funding for the agency, including cutting money for scientific research in half.

"Scott Pruitt is not secretary of commerce," says a former top Obama administration official. "His job is not to protect the fossil-fuel industry. It's to make difficult decisions, based on science and risk-reward analysis, that protect the environment and the health of the American people. And he's not doing that." Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who opposed Pruitt's confirmation, says that having a guy like Pruitt in charge of the EPA is evidence of the "dangerous, bizarro world we now live in."

In the past, EPA administrators have understood their role as the tough cop on the beat. "You say yes to things that protect public health and the environment while growing the economy," explains Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator during Obama's second term. "But it's often about saying no-- 'No, you can't dump that pollutant into the river. No, you can't run that coal plant without a scrubber.'" The EPA is an enormous agency, with ten regional offices and 15,000 employees around the country; only about 80 of them are political appointees. The rest are civil servants, many of whom joined the agency because they believe deeply in its mission. The administrator, as a member of the president's Cabinet, reflects the political priorities of the administration: Anne Gorsuch, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s (and was the mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch), is remembered for her anti-regulatory zeal; Gina McCarthy is best known for her role in shaping climate policy. But the job has never been a launchpad for political ambition. In fact, no administrator in the 47-year history of the agency has ever gone on to higher office.

Pruitt may be different. After only six months running the EPA, he has elevated the power and influence of the job to a new level, inspiring speculation within the Beltway that he sees the position as a steppingstone to bigger things. Given Pruitt's unabashedly pro-fossil-fuel agenda, it helps that he's working for a president who generates such chaos that worrying about ozone levels in the air we breathe seems like a quaint concern. Pruitt also has the support of White House advisers like Bannon, who famously vowed to fight every day for "the deconstruction of the administrative state." But now Pruitt's political ambitions will be measured against the future prospects of the planet-- and the health and welfare of the people who live on it. "The appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator is as serious a threat to our environment as we've ever faced," says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "Pruitt's entire career represents the exact opposite of the EPA's mission, which is to protect us from the reckless polluters and the disastrous consequences of climate change."

...To help with his cause, Pruitt brought in a team of experienced EPA-bashers and climate-change obstructionists, many of whom have worked for Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the most notorious and flamboyant climate denier in Congress. (Inhofe once brought a snowball to the Senate floor as evidence that global warming isn't real.) Pruitt's favored pick for deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, worked for Inhofe early in his career, then became a lobbyist for coal magnate Bob Murray, among others. Ryan Jackson, Pruitt's chief of staff, was formerly Inhofe's chief of staff. "He brought in the climate-denial all-stars," says Frank O'Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch, a climate and anti-pollution advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

Many of the career staffers looked on in shock and disbelief. "Most people who work at the EPA do it because they believe in the mission of the agency," says one EPA manager, who insists on anonymity-- like nearly everyone I talked to at the agency. "The people Pruitt brought in made it clear they had no interest in pursuing that mission." Within the first week, Pruitt alienated many of the rank and file with an uninspiring introductory speech about the importance of civility and how "regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate." He did not say a word about public health or the environment. That same week, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said that those who want to eliminate the EPA are "justified" in their beliefs. "I think people across the country look at the EPA the way they look at the IRS," Pruitt said. As one EPA staffer commented later, "Could he have been more insulting?"

...As long as the House and Senate remain in Republican control, Pruitt has few checks on his power. And that includes the press, too. Except for his victory lap after Paris, he mostly avoids mainstream media. (Pruitt's office refused numerous requests to interview him for this story.) And despite his often-professed belief in "the rule of law," he has steadfastly resisted and evaded Freedom of Information Act requests for e-mail records and other public documents. He's so good at operating in the shadows, in fact, that he was recently given the Golden Padlock Award by investigative journalists, which recognizes the most secretive publicly funded person or agency in the United States.




...So far, Pruitt has ingratiated himself at the White House, proved his mettle to the fossil-fuel industry and even gotten late-night talk-show hosts to tweet about him ("Put simply, Scott Pruitt is a piece of shit," Jimmy Kimmel tweeted during Pruitt's confirmation hearing). But his honeymoon may also be coming to an end. In July, a federal court rejected his attempt to delay new rules on methane emissions. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has already challenged many of Pruitt's rollbacks, predicts, "We'll be spending a lot of time in court." Even more worrisome for Pruitt, his pals on the right are getting impatient. Myron Ebell, the noted climate-change denier who led Trump's EPA transition team, criticized Pruitt at a conservative conference in April, saying he is a "clever lawyer" but his "political ambition" may undermine his willingness to take on heavy lifts like challenging the endangerment finding. James Delingpole, a writer at Breitbart who is close to Bannon, said that if Pruitt refused to undo the endangerment finding, "it will represent a major setback for President Trump's war with the Climate Industrial Complex." Delingpole added, "If Scott Pruitt is not up to that task, then maybe it's about time he did the decent thing and handed over the reins to someone who is."

Pruitt faces risks within the agency, too. He has zero loyalty among the rank and file, which means, as one veteran staffer says, "Everything is gonna get slow-walked. Stuff that embarrasses Pruitt will be leaked. You will see the power of bureaucracy in action." Exhibit A: Subversive Twitter accounts like @altUSEPA and @ActualEPAFacts ("leading the members of The #Resistance to a better world") have hundreds of thousands of followers and offer a daily stream of Pruitt-damning commentary.

As Pruitt knows, the last EPA administrator who came in with a burn-it-to-the-ground agenda was Anne Gorsuch. Like Pruitt, Gorsuch promised to roll back regulations, slash the budget and cut agency staff. But after a year, she was under siege, turning the agency into what the New York Times called "an Augean stable, reeking of cynicism, mismanagement and decay." Eventually, the House cited Gorsuch, who repeatedly failed to hand over subpoenaed records, for contempt of Congress. The debacle led Reagan to ask for her resignation. "Pruitt may think that because Republicans control all three branches of government right now, he has immunity," says the former Obama official. "He does not. If he gets in trouble, he will be jettisoned faster than you can say 'Donald Trump Jr.'"

Then there is the possibility of an environmental disaster on his watch. Imagine a high-profile Deepwater Horizon-like catastrophe involving one of Pruitt's cronies in the oil-and-gas industry. The congressional investigation that would follow might shine a very bright-- and unwelcome-- light on Pruitt's corporate ties.

For now, Pruitt's rise could not come at a worse time for the planet. The Paris Agreement, which aims to limit CO2 emissions to a level that will prevent warming above 2 degrees Celsius, was signed last year by virtually every nation in the world. And not a moment too soon. To avert climate catastrophe, a recent study in Nature determined emissions need to be on a downward trajectory by 2020-- that's just three years away. America's decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal, physicist Stephen Hawking recently warned, could be "the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible." Companies like Apple, Amazon and Wal-Mart are investing billions in clean energy, and U.S. cities and states are pushing ahead on their own (California just extended its landmark cap-and-trade program to cut carbon pollution). But on a global scale, for America to reboot its love for fossil fuels at this late stage is like taking five shots of tequila at midnight and promising to drive the rest of civilization home safely.

There are plenty of other reasons to be appalled by Pruitt. He is destroying the mission of the EPA. He is pushing policies that will make poor people poorer and rich people richer. And he is quite literally putting his own political career above the welfare of tens of thousands of people. While the air quality in many parts of America has gotten better in recent decades, air pollution still causes more than 200,000 premature deaths a year; even small increases in pollution mean more deaths. "He is sacrificing the health and welfare of children in order to give industry a few years of regulatory relief," says Jeff Carter, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

But it's likely that Pruitt won't hang around at the EPA long enough for anyone to count the bodies. His sights are set on higher things: the Oklahoma governor's race in 2018, or a run for Inhofe's Senate seat in 2020. Either way, Gavin Isaacs, the former head of the Oklahoma Bar Association, predicts "there will be more campaign contributions than anyone has ever seen." For that reason alone, Pruitt should not be underestimated. He may be on the wrong side of science and the wrong side of history, but given the post-factual trajectory of American politics right now, that doesn't mean his future isn't bright. It's the hope for a stable climate and a rapid transition to clean energy that's really in trouble.

Tom Guild, the Blue America-backed Berniecrat candidate running for Congress in the Oklahoma City area, knows Pruitt better than most 'cause... well, Oklahoma. This morning he told us "Pruitt is a radical who is dangerous to the health of all Americans. His incompetent reign as Oklahoma’s attorney general drew admiring glances and a job as EPA Administrator from Donald Trump, who is the consummate protector of Wall Street and big corporate polluters and mindless deregulation. It is no surprise that Trump cut off his nose to spite America’s face and withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement at Pruitt’s urging. The Donald spoke in draconian tones about how America would be forced to do many things that would hamper the American economy if shackled by even reasonable regulations. Take a breath Donald (if you don’t choke on the pollutants dancing in the air)! Pruitt is a willing lackey for the fossil fuels industry, because they have powered his political career with huge campaign contributions. He is a climate denier and must have skipped the required science class in school while growing up in Oklahoma. As renewable energy sources become less expensive and virtually inexhaustible, Pruitt is stuck in a time warp that fueled the dated but hilarious story lines in the old Beverly Hillbillies TV show. While Pruitt lines his pockets and fuels his ambition by doing the bidding of wealthy oilies, Rome (Georgia and Texas) and Kremlin, Oklahoma burn. The world’s finest scientists have shared with the world that our planet may be on an irreversible path to being unfit for human habitation as soon as the beginning of the next century. Meanwhile, Pruitt cuts clean air and water regulations and invites and encourages energy foxes to guard the American hen house. President Trump doesn’t give a frack (shake, rattle, and roll), because he’s all caught up in his rhetoric and desire to make the world safe for millionaires, and may I dare add billionaires. As they say in parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas, Katy bar the door!  It may soon be too late. Katy may slowly and painfully die from breathing disorders caused by unregulated pollutants in the air. Sadly, Katy may soon have some awesome company, namely the Late Great Planet Earth!

Jim Thompson is the progressive Democrat running for Congress in the Wichita-based 4th district. He's campaigning on a platform that includes a jobs plank tied to everything Pruitt and TRump-- and his Republican opponent, Ron Estes, are trying to wreck: green energy. "Kansas," he told us this morning, "is one of the windiest states in the country, and not just because of the hot air from our politicians like Brownback and Estes. Continuing to 'Go Green' is the future for energy in Kansas and the United States, with more than 27,000 jobs provided by clean energy in Kansas alone. Rather than taking steps backwards with fossil fuels such as coal and oil, we should be transitioning our fossil fuel workers to renewable energy jobs. Why continue to pour money into OPEC countries in the Middle East for limited supplies of oil? We should be investing that money here so that American ingenuity can erase our dependence on foreign oil. The future of America depends on investing in going green with infrastructure to support renewable resources like wind, solar, and bio-energy. We can either lead the world into a new era of energy and be the example, or we can stand by as other countries develop technology that we will have to depend upon. It's time to lead and Go Green!"

Paul Clements is running to represent the people in southwest Michigan who have been stuck with Fred Upton, a total Pruitt soulmate, who was once dubbed "an enemy of the earth" by the L.A. Times for his own anti-environmental agenda. Paul read the Rolling Stone piece too and had a really good perspective on what Goodell was getting at:
Assuming he doesn’t start a nuclear war, future generations are likely to remember Donald Trump not for White House chaos, demeaning the presidency, or promising to drain the swamp and packing his cabinet with millionaires. They are likely to remember him for turning back the clock on climate action. We must not be defeatist, but there is a very real chance that Trump, Pruitt, Inhofe and Upton have condemned our descendants to run away warming, sea level rise that swamps the world’s coastal cities, deserts rising across Spain and Italy, food crises, water wars, and mass starvation. Let us call out the ambition that leads to casual disregard for the well-being of millions. What is it but political ambition, feeding blind egos, sustained by a culture and discourse of greed? These names will be badges of ignominy.

Goal ThermometerThere is also a very real chance that our grass roots movements, cities and states can turn the tide toward a future of clean energy, shared prosperity, and international cooperation that gets climate change under control.

Some say climate change is the great moral issue of our time. Some say it is economic inequality. There is no need to choose: they are linked at the hip, and we certainly need to deal with both.

Today there is a new energy rising among the people. Political comfort zones are expanding wildly. We’re all seeing it. We don’t need to burn Trump, Pruitt, Inhofe or Upton in effigy. We need to call them out as the enemies of the people their actions have shown them to be. Building shared prosperity, from the depths Trump and his cronies are taking us to, is a long term task. The task will be brick by brick, institution by institution. But the other side has laid their cards on the table and shown their hand to be empty. Let’s use the real and terrible possibilities to motivate the sustained and focused activism, political action, and plain hard work the people are calling for.

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7 Comments:

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeepers, if he was so bad, why did 2 democraps vote to confirm?
I mean, if they'd voted nay, well, it wouldn't have mattered since jesus h. pence knows that jesus would destroy the earth for profit and would have broken the tie... but my point is that 2 democraps voted to confirm.

So... since this site is dedicated to restoring democrap majorities... what's so bad about Pruitt again?

Oh, I suppose you think the extraction/refining cartels don't bribe democraps too... and I suppose you think the democraps will act on climate change, you know... if they weren't irrelevant.

If it weren't so tragic, I'd laugh my ass off.

 
At 11:56 PM, Blogger Commonwealth said...

Hey, Gutless Anonymous:

First, fuck you.

Second, how about showing some guts here and telling us who you are? Howie busts his ass here to find, fund and promote TRUE progressive candidates who will work to reverse the damage that the Rethugs and DNC/DCCC one-party corporate structure have inflicted on the political process in this country. And all you do is sit here, hiding behind your anonymous wall, and jeer and undermine his efforts. It's easy to pick you out with all the snarky "democraps" comments and the whole above-it-all, too-good-to-be-involved cowardly posture. But this one is over the line. Howie Klein is NOT running this blog to "restore democrap majorities" and you should be ashamed of your gutless insinuation that he's part of the problem. He's specifically trying to find true post-FDR candidates who can take that party to where it needs to go. He spreads real information about the people who vote to confirm criminals like Pruitt and the fake Dems who enable the efforts; he exposes the "democraps" who are bribed by the extraction/refining cartels, in precise, to-the-dollar detail. He spends his time AS A CANCER SURVIVOR WHO KNOWS THE VALUE OF TIME to try to make a real difference to the world he lives in and get these corrupt corporate fucks replaced by people who will work for their neighbors, near and far, to reverse the damage that's been done. Do you help? No, all you do is sit back behind your anonymous wall and deride his work without EVER offering anything remotely useful in this battle.

Frankly, you make me fucking puke. Does it bother you to finally have you called out on your Republican-level cowardice? Probably not. You're big behind your wall like all the Rethug chickenhawks who are happy to be the Fighting 101st Keyboard Corps without ever putting anything real on the line. But am I wrong? Want to reverse that? Then use a real name or handle and do something to help the guy whose goodwill and money you're piggybacking on to get your rocks off from your safe basement. I'm betting you don't have the balls (and you are SO obviously male) to do that. But maybe I'm offbase here. Here's your chance to prove me wrong. I'm quite sure you can't look in a mirror and say to your pathetic self, "OK, I'll take that challenge." Can't? Then keep hiding behind your cowardly anonymous wall. But I hope that everyone here either ignores your pathetic ass or, better yet, weighs in just like this and busts you on your spineless bullshit. I'm past tired of it. If you can't help, then GET YOUR COWARDLY ASS OFF THIS BLOG, YOU PATHETIC PIECE OF SHIT. Or, if you don't really want to be a pathetic piece of shit, then HELP.

 
At 6:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

C, I'm TRYING to help (long game), unlike you who are all-in on the status quo.

I'm trying to show Howie that promoting even very, very good people running as democraps is, in the long run, counterproductive to real, progressive and permanent change.

All you are doing is going hysterical in support of Howie (ok, not a bad thing all together) AND, therefore, supporting the status quo (terminal to a free, democratic usa in the long run).

You, yourself, said it: "Rethugs and DNC/DCCC one-party corporate structure"

How does supporting one side of that coin change anything at all. And don't waste my time by hallucinating that change will come from the bottom up. It cannot. It won't. The billions in bribes flow downward. Nothing that will change that will flow upwards.

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger VG said...

Anon at 6:06 am.

Could you please clarify exactly what you are doing to "help"? To effect real, progressive and permanent change? If you think that your comments at DWT are somehow "helping", then you are extremely naive.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger koi seo said...

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At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

VG, not naïve. Futile probably. I know nobody much can bring themselves to eschew such an entrenched meme as the "Democratic Party" no matter how much evil they do.

It seems that americans have a peculiar propensity for self-delusion -- believing in shit that clearly isn't true no matter how much proof keeps kicking them in the groin. But I'm trying.

The democraps are one with corporations and billionaires. You want real, progressive long-lasting change? The democraps are as much your enemy as are the Rs. This is undeniable. If you deny, then I clearly cannot reach you.

But Howie does NOT deny. He knows. He posts multitudes of fine proofs from every perspective of the truth. Yet he cannot seem to get there from here. I don't know what to think about this. He's aware and sincere and thinks clearly, right up to the point where the equation gets solved. At that point he quits.

I'm trying to help Howie realize this. He's done all the work. But he doesn't get the answer.

If DWT ever gets the answer, it would be a massive help in what coalesces as a true left movement. If real, progressive, permanent change is to occur any time before I die, it'll need the DWTs et al to help the movement further and faster.

The longer DWT keeps filling the democraps' root cellar with a few good people, the longer real progressive and permanent change will have to wait.

 
At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as Ds exist to corrupt whatever true leftism manifests itself, real progressive and permanent change becomes less and less possible absent total collapse or revolution or both.

 

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