Environmental advocates are in a full code-red alert with the President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but back in Kentucky Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has a mom who is simply delighted with the success of her son.
Credit the Herald-Leader in Lexington for tracking down Pruitt’s Kentucky Danville and Lexington roots, before he left for law school in Oklahoma and made a career for himself in the nation’s oil patch.
“It’s pretty exciting,” his mother, Linda Pruitt Warner, told Herald- Leader reporter Linda Blackford. “He was called up there last week (to meet with Trump), but we didn’t know the news until today.”
Warner went on to say: “He had worked for an oil company there, and when he came out of school, he wanted to come back to Kentucky, but he had a path already laid out. He’s just a go-getter, he takes every day as a challenge.”
The article also noted that Pruitt, 48, was married in 1990 at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville.
Social media and cable TV news were all a-flutter earlier in the week after Trump met with Al Gore, who has made fighting climate change his legacy, wondering if maybe if Trump had softened his earlier false claims that climate change is a hoax. But in Pruitt, Trump has found a champion of the oil and gas industry who is among the nation’s biggest foes against EPA. And as Climate Central noted, Pruitt has “falsely stated that scientists disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind.”
There may still be argument around the edges, as well as a huge political disagreement, but mainstream science finds that climatewarming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, and at least 18 scientific societies have published statements to that effect.
“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the (EPA) is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “He is a climate science denier who, as attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections.”
The National Insitute for Money in State Politics tracks $271,111 in campaign contributions to Pruit, a former Oklahoma state senator, from the oil and gas industry since 2002.
But one person’s conspiracy is another’s righteous battle.
Trump’s message: “For too long, (EPA) has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control antienergy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn. As my EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt … will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”
A spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, John Mura, said cabinet officials appreciate Pruitt’s participation in a lawsuit with Kentucky, Indiana and other states that seeks to overturn President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to limit heat-trapping emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“We think he will and should take a critical view the cost-benefit trade-off of environmental regulations, because in areas such as the Clean Power Plan and the Stream Protection Rule (for mining), we agree with his viewpoint that the EPA has gone too far,” Mura said.
But people in Kentucky and Indiana should know Pruitt is on record crediting fracking and cheaper natural gas for displacing coal and improving air quality.
In Congressional testimony in May, Pruitt said: “This didn’t happen as a result of the heavy hand of the EPA. As natural gas becomes increasingly affordable, it becomes an increasingly attractive alternative to coal.”
He said he expected that trend to continue “for years to come.”
That renews questions about whether Trump can follow through on his promise to restore thousands of lost coal mining jobs.
In his old Kentucky home and across the country, expect epic battles, and a lot of lawsuits by environmental organizations if the EPA starts unraveling its regulations, where Pruitt may score some wins. It will be harder to fundamentally change laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act in Congress, perhaps going as far as what Gov. Matt Bevin has suggested — doing away with the EPA “at the federal level.”
Expect protests, too, especially around climate change, an issue that carries a good measure of public sympathy. Just a few months ago, new polling by Gallop found that 64 percent of U.S. adults say they are worried “a great deal” or a “fair amount” about global warming — up from 55 percent a year earlier, and the highest since 2008.
While Pruitt is already being embraced by many in Kentucky, remember, voters tend to punish any political party that overreaches.