Only a few days ago, some journalists and newspapers were editorializing a visit to Trump Tower by climate campaigner and former vice president Al Gore as a sign of hope.
Perhaps President-elect Donald Trump could be turned from his position as a climate science denier who had declared the issue a Chinese hoax? Was he softening?
Announcements in recent hours and days about just who will be working with the EPA, and who will lead it under Trump, will likely put that sentiment to rest.
Trump has reportedly confirmed that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — a lawman who does not accept the mountains of evidence linking human activity to global warming — as the next lead administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A former state Republican senator, Pruitt has led legal efforts to challenge President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
In fact, Pruitt was among those Republican state prosecutors found to be holding secret, paid meetings with the fossil fuel industry just weeks before launching the lawsuit with these companies which is now tying up the Clean Power Plan in court.
At that same event, hosted by the Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA), Pruitt sat on a panel called “The Dangerous Consequences of the Clean Power Plan & Other EPA Rules” with representatives from Murray Energy and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to RAGA for that benefit.
Pruitt, a close ally of the fossil fuel industry in his state, has also been a key voice in the pushback against Democratic attorneys general who have tried to sue ExxonMobil for its backing of climate science denial organizations.
In May, Pruitt joined Luther Sterange in an article, where he wrote: “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”
Climate campaigner Bill McKibben has described Pruitt as a stenographer for the fossil fuel industries that have funded his campaigns over the years.
In 2014, a New York Times investigation found Pruitt was using his state AG letterhead to write letters to the EPA and President Obama’s office that were actually drafted by lobbyists for oil and gas company Devon Energy.
Trump has also been stacking his so-called EPA “landing team” with climate science deniers, fossil fuel advocates, and operatives from think tanks that have made it a mission to block laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The landing team is tasked with working with the current EPA staff to gather information so the incoming Trump administration can draw up action plans.
Conservation groups have heavily criticised Pruitt’s appointment.
Sam Adams, a director at the World Resources Institute US, said, “The selection of Attorney General Pruitt, who has consistently questioned climate science and actively fought EPA’s ability to reduce emissions, raises deeply troubling questions.”
“The critical issue is whether EPA will continue to play its vital role in protecting people’s health and safety in communities across the country,” he said in a statement.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The mission of the EPA and its administrator requires an absolute commitment to safeguard public health and protect our air, land, water, and planet. That’s the litmus test. By naming Pruitt, President-elect Trump has flunked. The American people did not vote to return to the country to the dirty old days or to turn a blind eye on dangerous climate change.”
Some had even stronger words for Pruitt's appointment.
“Pruitt is a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry,” Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, said in a statement. “Any Senator who doesn't fight this nomination is handing corporate polluters a wrecking ball to destroy our future.”
Putting a climate science denier and fossil fuel advocate as the lead of the EPA with an advance team of like-minded operatives is not a sign of hope. It is the opposite.
Main image: Oklahoma Attorney General and incoming EPA lead administrator Scott Pruitt. Credit: Flickr/GageSkidmore