When Elvis Presley sang “There’s a whole lotta shaking going on” he was probably referring to his hips. But if he were alive today, he might instead be crooning about Oklahoma.
That state has been beset by “earthquake swarms” caused by the oil and gas industry’s wastewater injection wells. Recently, Oklahoma has been experiencing almost 1,000 earthquakes every year. Those earthquakes have caused large-scale property damage, even wiping out the downtown of one city.
Even though the U.S. Geological Survey and the EPA urged legal action against the oil and gas corporations to stop the harmful wastewater disposal, the attorney general of Oklahoma refused to take action. After all, this attorney general had received more than $300,000 from those very same oil and gas companies. In addition, his campaign chair was CEO of a large gas company.
That attorney general is Scott Pruitt and he is now Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s not that Pruitt always sits on his hands. When polluters call, he acts. He is one of the most aggressive opponents of clean air and water rules administered by EPA. He has time and time again used his position as Oklahoma attorney general to lead the fight against controls on mercury and other air toxins as well as rules to limit smog.
While Pruitt is not a friend of environmental protectors, he is a very good friend of polluters. A press investigation found that Pruitt sent a letter on official state letterhead to the EPA against a rule to control methane pollution that was virtually verbatim to one written for him by that state’s biggest fossil fuel corporation.
While serving as attorney general, he misused that office to create a special-interest group to fight efforts to control pollution and address the climate crisis. He solicited secretive funding from the very oil and gas industry he was supposed to regulate. Koch and other fossil fuel companies channeled over $16 million to Pruitt’s anti-environmental crusade.
It’s hard to think of a worse choice to protect our clean air and water than Scott Pruitt. The old metaphor of “the fox guarding the hen house” doesn’t begin to describe just how wrong Pruitt is for the job of overseeing protections for our air and water.
Unfortunately, Scott Pruitt will have plenty of company in Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
Consider the lineup. The secretary of state nominee, the person responsible for international agreements on the climate crisis and issues like the XL pipeline, is Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, one of the top five air polluters in the nation. Heading the Energy Department will be Rick Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, who wants to eliminate the department although he couldn’t remember the name of the department in his infamous “Oops” debate appearance. In a sign of things to come, the Trump energy transition team has demanded the name of any civil service employee in the Energy Department who has attended a conference on the climate crisis. Add to that the nomination of Jeff Sessions for attorney general. As AG, he will be responsible for the enforcement of environmental regulations, but as a senator from Alabama he has continually regurgitated the climate science denial talking points from polluters’ lobbyists.
A lobbyist for dirty fuels corporations said of Trump’s Cabinet: "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas." It’s more like coal in the stocking for those of us who care about protecting our outdoors.
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves as the vice president of the national Sierra Club and is an adjunct professor of urban and regional planning at UW-Madison.
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