Living Large in Carson City: The Nattering Nabobs of the EPA Edition

Image result for scott pruitt images

Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth. Ludwig Borne

When Trump named Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), I like most environmentally conscious people felt a wave of nausea sweep over me. Far from a Trump supporter, he backed Jeb Bush up to 2016 until is timely demise in the presidential primary, and said things like Trump was an

“empty vessel when it comes to things like the Constitution and rule of law,” CNN reported Monday.

Not a resounding show of support by Pruitt for the Orange One who would be king. Why would Trump tap a detractor like Pruitt for one of the most sensitive positions in his nascent administration? The answer speaks volumes about both men. Trump, who has shown over and over again, his lack of ethics and shyness towards transparency while demonstrating a vociferous drive to win at all costs, simply turned the other cheek.  Pruitt represented a juicy hunk of red meat on the hoof for his shortsighted and equally environmentally tone-deaf basket of deplorable constituency.

Pruitt, who is from Oklahoma, was exactly what Trump wanted in an EPA director to dismantle the gains the Obama administration made on regulating businesses and corporations and improving the environment. As the Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times during his tenure in an attempt to derail Obama’s progress in addressing the causes and concerns of climate change. Name any mainstream stance on the environment and Pruitt comes down solidly in the opposition.

Climate change? He refuses to link CO2 emissions to global warming and has been one of the most vocal climate change deniers on record. His 14 law suits against the EPA were a heavy-handed attempt to block implementation of Obama’s progressive EPA rules. Oklahoma under Pruitt’s reign as attorney general joined a dozen other states in trying to block the Clean Power Plan which was intended to reduce CO2 emissions by monitoring U.S. power plants.

His other “interests” included promoting mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women, promising to sue the federal government for “expenses” incurred from immigration and on and on. Frankly, Pruitt comes across as a political troglodyte with little concern for his often- outlandish stances on all things political and environmental. Is it any wonder Trump felt comfortable in overlooking Pruitt’s past indiscretions that may have been hostile to Trump becoming president?

Of course, Pruitt’s ethics are as incomprehensible as his stances on the environment.  His security detail he maintains he needs is burning through its budget faster than one can say acid rain. In the past, as today, his association with the fossil fuel industry is the thing that Republican’s wet dreams are made of. His penchant for luxury pampering is monumental. His frequent first-class flights home to Tulsa are costing taxpayers a lot of money. A $43,000 soundproof telephone booth, $50 dollar a night rent for a bedroom in a luxury Washington condo owned by a lobbyist (shared with his daughter), and demands for his drivers to illegally turn on the limo’s sirens and lights to bypass traffic are just a few of the 23 ethic violations he has to justify in the coming months. The man is just wacky.

So, what America faces under Pruitt as head of the EPA is an environmental disaster in the making. Given his checkered past and current egomania, there seems to be little to do but bury our heads in the sand and hope the mid-terms give Democrats back control of the Congress.  Or is it?

In an article in Politico titled

The Myth of Scott Pruitt’s EPA Rollback

His ethics woes are overshadowing the central fact of his tenure: He hasn’t done much.

 By MICHAEL GRUNWALD April 07, 2018

tells a different story. First off, when implementing laws related to the environment and how they affect industry, it is an incredibly burdensome. It’s the same incredibly difficult task when trying to reverse them.

But Pruitt did not kill or roll back Obama’s strict fuel-efficiency standards; he merely announced his intention to launch a process that could eventually weaken them. In fact, Pruitt has not yet killed or rolled back any significant regulations that were in place when President Donald Trump took office. While Pruitt is often hailed (or attacked) as Trump’s most effective (or destructive) deregulatory warrior, the recent spotlight on his ethics—allegations of a sweetheart housing deal; pay raises for favored aides; lavish spending on travel, furniture and security; and retaliation against underlings who questioned him—has arguably overshadowed his lack of regulatory rollbacks during his first 15 months in Washington. The truth is that Scott Pruitt has done a lot less to dismantle the EPA than he—or his critics—would have you believe.

Say what? No one could believe one of Trump’s most loyal foot soldiers could be pulling the wool over the American public’s eyes, especially those that are loyal to the president and his outlandish policies. Right, and I have some ocean front property in Arizona I will sell you at a small fraction of the national budget.

Pruitt’s problem is that major federal regulations are extremely difficult and time-consuming to enact, and just as difficult and time-consuming to reverse. The rulemaking process can take years of technical and administrative work that Pruitt and his team have not yet had time to do. And even if Pruitt manages to keep his job long enough to complete that process for any of his efforts to weaken clean-air and clean-water rules, the EPA will inevitably face years of litigation over each one. The old saying that it’s easier to tear down a barn than to build one does not really apply to rules limiting pollutants like ozone, coal ash, mercury and methane.

“The regulatory apparatus is like a super-tanker; it can take a long time to turn around,” says Washington appellate lawyer David Rivkin, who represented Pruitt in several of Oklahoma’s challenges to Obama-era EPA rules. “If you want durable results, you can’t be sloppy or rushed.”

What Pruitt has been able to do is put on hold the Obama era rules and policies that have not been implemented yet. The ones that are in place are subject to the above legal mine fields before they could even be repealed. Granted, this isn’t the best-case scenario, but the knowledge that there is a smoke screen surrounding Pruitt’s alleged whacking away at EPA rules is a bit comforting.

“You can’t just govern by press release. You have to do the hard work of developing a rule that can withstand judicial scrutiny, even though it isn’t sexy,” says State Energy & Environmental Impact Center director David Hayes, an Interior Department official in the Clinton and Obama administrations. “Pruitt hasn’t been willing to do that, and that’s why he isn’t really having much of an impact.”

What we know is that Pruitt’s “successes” are much like Donald Trump’s successes, illusions at best. and outright lies at their worst.

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