Former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt has just been confirmed as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump’s administration. Pruitt, who has significant ties to fossil-fuel industry, is an avowed enemy of the EPA, having sued the agency more than a dozen times under the Obama administration. Despite this, he cleared the Senate by a vote of 52-46. This means that Trump’s full-scale assault on the environment can really begin.
Reuters is reporting that senior EPA staffers have been warned that Trump is expected to sign new executive orders next week that would undo some of the vital work the Obama administration did to curb climate change and target the EPA. A source for Inside EPA said that Trump is going to sign orders about the administration’s climate change work that would “suck the air out of the room.”
This is, presumably, great news for Pruitt. There are lots of reasons why EPA employees — and fans of the environment in general — are concerned with his new role. Pruitt denies that climate change is scientific consensus and opposes the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce pollution at the nation’s power plants. He’s said that the role of the EPA is “secondary” is to that of states, and he thinks it costs too much to run. An easy way to cut costs and please fossil fuel friends is gutting climate change research — particularly if you don’t believe that it’s real.
During Trump’s press conference earlier this week, the president said that “some very big things are going to be announced next week,” and although it’s always a mystery as to what, exactly, he’s referring too, sweeping environmental executive orders would certainly fit the bill. Trump could, with just a year’s notice, pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, or just ignore the United States’ commitments. Mother Jones predicts that Trump could require that the EPA abandon the Clean Power Plan or ignore the Obama administration’s attempts to factor in the “social cost of carbon” while creating regulations. He and Pruitt could also cut the EPA’s budget, or have the agency abandon crucial areas of research.
However, there is some hope. As Inverse reported, most environmental regulations have provisions that let everyday citizens file lawsuits, meaning that average green-minded Joes like you can sue the EPA, curtailing its attempts to gut the agency completely.
And it’s not like Trump wants to completely demolish the EPA. “I want environmental — all environmental situations to be taken properly care of. It’s very important to me,” he said in that recent press conference. However, the detail-oriented president wants to reduce it significantly. “You don’t need four or five or six regulations to take care of the same thing,” he said, which is little comfort.