Living Large In Carson City: I Heard Him Call My Name . . . Not Edition

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Scott Pruitt’s faith guided his time in office and shielded him

He argued that God gave mankind “dominion” over the environment. Vox

Vox’s Tara Isabella Burton penned the article above in response to the news that the little dandy from Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, had resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The news came the morning of July 5, and with it, images of Pruitt wandering the capital grounds the previous evening as crowds gathered to watch a 4th of July fireworks display. Two questions have to be asked.

One, was Pruitt so out of the loop that he had no idea his boss, Donald Trump, was about to give him the boot? Two, did he know of the coming pink slip but went to the celebration anyway knowing it would possibly be the last time he had a chance to rub shoulders with Washington’s elite, a group he was about to be booted from when the morning news cycle came to light? Knowing Pruitt’s capacity for self delusion and sycophantic, toadying nature, there is probably a bit of truth in both.

Nothing, however, is that crystal clear when it comes the actions and motivations of the former director of the EPA. Then there is talk about a new scandal that is being bandied about on cable news shows the last few days. Supposedly, several weeks ago, Pruitt let the president know that he was willing to replace Jeff Sessions if Trump fired the beleaguered Attorney General.

Pruitt argued that under the The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 presidents have the right to appoint a “temporary” replacement if the current seat holder is for some reason removed from office. Pruitt’s ill-conceived plan would have him sitting in for 210 days as temporary director as stipulated in the 1998 act. After that time, supposedly,  a new AG would have passed through the confirmation process, at which time, Pruitt would step down and move back to Oklahoma to run for either the governorship or as a candidate for the United States Senate.

Pruitt denied the allegation, but Pruitt’s veracity is only a little better than Trump’s own rocky relationship to the truth. Had Trump been foolish enough to accept the offer, presumably, the über loyal lapdog, Pruitt, would have eliminated the pesky little investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians during the 2016 campaign and election, and along with it, the well-respected special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Yet another scandal is covered in the CNN article that revealed staffers at the EPA kept a secret calendar that would be used as a template for the official calendar released to the public. Before the secret calendar came to print, problematic meetings and appointments with the names of those present would be “scrubbed” from the official version. By law, each department is required to submit an official calendar to allow the public to see what department heads were up to and why.

By keeping a secret calendar, Pruitt could meet with lobbyist and industry officials who had interest in influencing the director to support their desires to change federal regulatory law that came before the EPA. What Pruitt and his minions at the EPA were doing was possibly illegal, and something Pruitt would have to explain before Congress. Trump may have simply had it with Pruitt and wanted him gone.

Back to my original reason for writing this blog and Burton’s Vox article. She stated that Pruitt’s faith in God insulated him from condemnation and allowed him to stay in office. This despite 15 ongoing ethics violations investigations by various departments of Congress and the government currently against him. In the title of the article, Burton states,

“He argued that God gave mankind “dominion” over the environment.”

As a devout Southern Baptist christian, Pruitt is the epitome of hypocrisy. A proven liar, narcissist, and grifter, Pruitt’s claims and actions do not mesh with reality.  Maybe his God is a willful destroyer of all things that are right and holy about this planet. Maybe his God is simply an asshole who is beholden to big business and industries that rape, pillage and destroy everything that is good about the planet and the people who live here.

Or maybe, Pruitt is exactly what he appears to be. A small-minded man with an ego the size of Texas who came to Washington with his hand out looking for as many opportunities to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the American people and the government to which he pledged allegiance. This is the kind of person that if there were a God would have long ago been struck down by a proverbial bolt of lightening. He does a poor job of spreading his “Christian values” to the masses and is the poster boy for the Republican Party has become under the Trump administration.

At the end of the day, the one redeeming note of hope to come out of Pruitt’s debacle is he is gone, not forgotten, he still has to face the ethics allegations that he unwisely used his office and position in illegal ways, but gone from the role he played in the EPA. Honestly, his temporary replacement, a former coal lobbyist, will not be much better, possibly worse. Still, I look forward to next Monday morning knowing that Pruitt and his holier-than-thou personae will be headed back to Oklahoma, but this time on his own dime.

 

 

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

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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.