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Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's choice to lead the EPA, is a literal stenographer for the oil and gas industry

By       Message Bill McKibben     Permalink
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From NY Daily News

Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma
Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma
(Image by KTLA TV)
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Sometimes we say that so and so is a "mouthpiece" of some special interest, meaning that they're in cahoots, that they express their views. Or maybe we say someone's a "puppet" of industry. Most of the time these are metaphors.

But sometimes they're literal. Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA, is a mouthpiece and a puppet of the fossil-fuel industry. He's a stenographer.

How do we know this? We know this because in 2014 Pruitt sent a letter to that same EPA in his capacity as attorney general of Oklahoma. The letter argued that the agency was dramatically overstating how much pollution new gas wells in his state were causing.

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He was wrong (the EPA has actually dramatically underestimated the pollution from fracking, as they've lately admitted), but never mind that. What was interesting was the letter.

It turned out that it had been written by the good folks at Devon Energy, a local oil and gas company. And Pruitt had taken their words, and put it on his letterhead, and passed it on to the EPA as the official position of the state.

And he did the same thing with letters to President Obama and the secretary of the interior. Once he'd dispatched the company's letters to D.C. on his stationery, his staff wrote to Devon Energy to report back, and, according to the New York Times, got a pat on the head from the company's executive vice-president for public affairs.

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"Excellent," he said. "The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both the EPA and the White House."

That really tells you all you need to know about Pruitt, and about the Trump team in general. Having sold the public on the idea of his independence, Trump is now busy selling off the nation to industry, the fossil-fuel industry in particular.

And in so doing, he's setting us up for disaster. How do we know? Well, look at Oklahoma. It used to be a place essentially without earthquakes.

But then the frackers started injecting their waste-water deep underground, and what do you know -- pretty soon it was the most seismically active corner of America! On the Pawnee reservation, for instance, a chief reported last month that they'd had three earthquakes that day, 15 in the last week, and 816 in the course of the year.

Various Oklahomans are suing various companies (including Devon) for the endless damage, but the state's top officials are too busy holding days of prayer asking God for economic help for the oil industry.

It goes without saying that Pruitt is a climate denier. Ivanka Trump may be holding court with Al Gore in the front parlor of Trump Tower, but in the back rooms the real power is being handed over to the oil industry. And it goes without saying that he'll continue to be a mouthpiece and a puppet at EPA, even though the entire point of the agency is to try and rein in pollution.

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But now he won't have to bother copying letters from the oil companies to send to himself. He'll just be able to pick up the phone and get his marching orders firsthand.

 

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Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, including The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and The (more...)
 

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