Monday, March 12, 2018

At Pruitt’s EPA, changing ‘P’ to ‘D’

The Trump administration has inspired some amazing magazine covers, like Time's depicting the tweeter-in-chief poking in his palm as he leans like a giant vagrant against a cratering Washington Monument. Brutal.

However, that's tame compared to Newsweek Feb. 16.

Under "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" in 50-point type, wounded and dying Disney-esque creatures flee and fall before Trump's man at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Headline: "Scott Pruitt is having a wonderful time destroying the EPA."

Yes, the man assigned to head the nation's environmental watchdog has left that dog chained out in the elements and is feeding it a steady diet of mercury and trichloroethylene.

Meanwhile, he uses his status to run for higher office, waste tax dollars on personal missives, and profit at the good graces of polluters.

Pruitt's tenure "is the regulatory equivalent of the German blitzkreig across Poland," writes Newsweek's Alexander Nazaryan.

The former Oklahoma attorney general, who spent the lion's share of his time there flinging junk suits at the EPA, now seeks to destroy it from within.

It won't work, writes Nazaryan, because environmental law isn't something one ideologue can toss out like an empty Skoal tin.

That doesn't mean Pruitt hasn't and won't inflict lasting damage. One horrific wound has been the departure of more than 700 EPA staffers, many of them scientists, who quit.

In their place, to the extent that Pruitt sees fit to fill any of the vacancies, are recruits direct from industry: polluters and profiteers and climate deniers.

"It's hard to think of another instance in America public life in which the interests of corporations were placed so far above the interests of the American people," writes Nazaryan.

Pruitt says his motivation is job creation. He boasts, for instance, that the first year of Trump policies created 50,000 jobs in the coal industry. Not quite, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Try 2,000.

Pruitt's assault on a host of regulations, dating back to the Obama administration and beyond, are offered as means of freeing up employers to hire more people.

The Environmental Integrity Project has analyzed the linkage between EPA regulations and job loss. It has found that only 0.2 percent of mass layoffs – 50 workers or more – are related to government intervention or regulations. By contrast, for every job lost due to regulations, 15 are lost due to cost-cutting reorganization.

What this means is whatever harm Trump and Pruitt manage to do to the Earth will be inflicted principally to soothe CEOs and stockholders fixated on their profit margins.

Recently Pruitt held a presumably public meeting in North Dakota to get feedback on his plan to revamp provisions of the Clean Water Act. When average citizens showed up at the meeting, however, they found out they were not invited.

This, reports Tribune-Media Services, is the way Pruitt works. When he seeks input, his audience is hand-picked and "industry-friendly," like representatives of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Meanwhile, representatives of the Navajo Nation have complained that their concerns about clean-water rules have been ignored.

This is what Pruitt does, merrily, merrily.

If he were honest, a virtue yet to visit the Trump administration, Pruitt would go ahead and change the name of his agency to EDA – Environmental Degradation Agency.

His first item of business as Oklahoma attorney general was to halt a lawsuit filed by his predecessor against chicken farmers alleged to have polluted the Illinois River. Oh, and he did so after receiving $40,000 from those farmers.

And so it goes. Pruitt has upped his game doing the bidding of the Koch brothers and Dow Chemical as he eyes a U.S. Senate run or, hey, maybe the presidency someday.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. They'd be delighted to have no EPA.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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