Pruitt: Will Trump’s EPA nominee roll back regulations?
Any hope that President Trump might govern as a moderate on the environment just went “up in soon-to-be-unregulated smoke,” said Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times. Trump last week picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. A climate-change skeptic like Trump himself, Pruitt has “made no secret of his close relationship with the oil-and-gas industry,” and has repeatedly sued the EPA to try to block its restrictions on mercury emissions from coal plants, greenhouse gas emissions, and other forms of pollution. Trump just picked “an enemy of the EPA to lead it,” said The New York Timesin an editorial. In fact, the president-elect could not have found anyone more hostile to environmental regulation in general and the leadership role on climate change America has taken under President Obama. Congress owes a president some deference on Cabinet appointments, but Trump has made an “aggressively bad choice” in Pruitt, who could single-handedly undermine the global effort to slow climate change. “If the Senate cares about the public good, it needs to send his nomination to the dustbin.”
Calm down, liberals—Pruitt is not the “ecological Antichrist,” said Ian Tuttle in NationalReview.com. Yes, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, it was Pruitt’s job to defend the state’s oil industry from the Obama EPA’s “scandalously radical” new regulations, which go far beyond anything Congress ever authorized. But Pruitt has also spoken out in the EPA’s defense, saying it serves “a very valuable purpose.” Many other conservatives would happily shut it down. As for Pruitt being a “‘climate change denialist,’” said Daniel Payne in TheFederalist.com, the Left’s evidence for this charge appears to be an article Pruitt wrote in which he said the climate change debate is “far from settled,” and that science has not yet determined the “degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” Liberals become apoplectic whenever anyone questions their “fanatical stance on climate change.”
If he’s confirmed, Pruitt may find that “dismantling climate rules isn’t so easy,” said William Buzbee in The New York Times. Long-standing laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act enjoy widespread public support, and Democrats have already vowed to filibuster any attempt to weaken them. Even the EPA’s own Obama-era policies that conservatives detest, such as the Clean Power Plan, cannot simply be killed by fiat. Decades of legal precedent, much of it established by the U.S. Supreme Court, requires an agency to provide a solid factual justification, and consult with the public, before it abruptly changes course. Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush both took office determined to roll back EPA regulations, said Brad Plumer in Vox.com. Both found themselves thwarted by lawsuits from green groups, the courts, and the “sheer inertia” of decades of environmental law and regulation.
Pruitt, however, may be more radical than any previous EPA chief, said Jay Michaelson in TheDailyBeast.com. He can start “firing people and cutting enforcement budgets” the minute he takes office, and order the agency to stop collecting data on global temperature. He might even ban staffers from “saying the words ‘climate change.’” The big question, said Josh Voorhees in Slate.com, is whether Trump follows through on his campaign pledge to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on carbon emissions. Trump has already backed away from some of his more outlandish campaign promises. But Pruitt’s nomination suggests that Trump’s “science-denying bluster on climate” may have been sincere.
Only in America
■ A Pennsylvania school board is allowing a student to wear a sweatshirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag, saying it did not offend enough students to “disrupt the school day.” Parent Robert Williams, who is black, said the Confederate sweatshirt was a clear statement of “white power” and “racial animus.” He said his daughter “is afraid to be in class with this student” and finds it hard to concentrate.
■ Students at the University of Pennsylvania pulled down the English Department’s portrait of William Shakespeare, replaced him with African-American author and feminist Audre Lorde, and demanded “a more inclusive” literature curriculum. English Department head Jed Esty vowed to form a “working group” to “declare and defend [its] departmental mission in the current political climate.”
Good week for:
Goldman Sachs, after its stock soared 33 percent this year— including a 75 percent gain since its low in June. Analysts credit President-elect Trump’s nomination of several current and former Goldman executives to key roles in his administration and his planned deregulation of the banking industry.
Flexibility, after “gender-fluid” performer Kelly Mantle was declared eligible for both Best Actor and Best Actress awards for his role as a transgender prostitute in Confessions of a Womanizer.
Pre-gaming, after the pilot on a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Kansas City congratulated the Oakland Raiders football fans on board for having consumed all of the alcohol on the aircraft in just three hours. “Yep, it’s a Raiders flight,” a sportswriter on the plane tweeted.
Bad week for:
Looking the part, after a Texas man was asked to leave a Six Flags theme park for looking “too much like Santa Claus,” attracting the attention of children. “This ain’t a costume,” said Jerry Henderson, who’s had a long white beard for 20 years. “This is me.”
City planning, after a public meeting on accessible housing for the disabled in Toronto had to be canceled because the building that was hosting it was not accessible to the disabled. “There was an oversight,” one official conceded.
Parental bliss, after Paris School of Economics researchers found that having children provided only a temporary boost to a person’s overall happiness. “Children are a great idea,” one researcher noted, “for up to 12 months.”
Boring but important
EPA backtracks on fracking safety
The Environmental Protection Agency reversed course this week on its 2015 assertion that there is no evidence that fracking contaminat es drinking water, releasing an updated study that concludes the oil-and-gas extraction technique can taint the water supply in certain circumstances. Contamination has occurred following surface spills of fracking fluids, the EPA said, and when the poor cement casing of a well allows chemical-laced liquids to leak into groundwater. The EPA’s science adviser, Thomas Burke, said the report remained “full of gaps,” but environmentalists argued the study showed a need for tougher fracking regulations. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to roll back existing fracking rules.