Scott Pruitt has repeatedly stated that he’s cutting the EPA’s budget for Clean Air programs because those programs are not the EPA’s job, and that he expects the states to do more to ensure clean air.
This is a lie. Here’s what Scott Pruitt knows:
(1) The states don’t have the money for more environmental protection. They don’t even have the money for what they’re supposed to be doing right now. The State of Illinois where I live, for example, cannot even afford to pay to keep all of its schools and government offices open, or for the medical care it is contractually obligated to provide its employees. Many other states are in similarly pathetic financial shape. In short, anyone who proposes extensive new state programs for anything-protecting the environment, or otherwise-should have their sanity questioned.
(2) The states don’t know what they’re doing. For decades now, clean air programs have been the responsibility of the federal government, i.e., the US EPA. So, not surprisingly, that’s where the clean air expertise is, along with the infrastructure to create and execute such programs. Those resources took years, decades really, to assemble. So, even if a state were flush with cash for new environmental programs, and wanted to get started today, it’s at least 10 years away from having a clean air program that would actually make a difference to its citizens’ health.
(3) Polluted air does not stop at a state’s border. Polluted air travels across state borders every moment of every day. So the authority of anyone who hopes to identify and punish air polluters had better not stop at a state’s border. This is why the enforcement of clean air laws has principally been the job of the US EPA, and not the states.
So, why is Scott Pruitt insisting that the states do a job that he knows they cannot do? Why is he cutting the EPA’s clean air programs budget when he knows that, if the EPA doesn’t enforce clean air laws, no one else will?
To answer these questions, we need only to look at who benefits when clean air laws are not enforced. Of course, it’s big industrial polluters, and most specifically the biggest polluter of all-the petroleum industry. This is the very industry for whom Scott Pruitt worked when he was masquerading as a public servant (as the Attorney General of Oklahoma). His record there was disgraceful: he sued the EPA 14 times, typically on behalf of his real clients, the big oil companies, always arguing that the EPA didn’t have the power to enforce clean air and water laws against his polluting friends.
Pruitt was famously shamed by Fox News’ Chris Wallace recently when he could not answer why he was gutting programs to minimize toxic air emissions, when those programs would literally save children’s’ lives and spare hundreds of thousands more the experience of very painful respiratory disease. Pruitt could not answer Wallace’s question because his shameless shilling for the pollution industry meant either that the question had not even occurred to him–he literally didn’t know what to say–or that he didn’t want to state publicly what he really believed, i.e., that the profits of the polluters that he was put in place to protect was more important to him than the lives and health of their victims.
Scott Pruitt may have changed jobs, but he hasn’t changed his stripes.