UPDATE: Trump chooses climate denier who’s suing the EPA to run it, and starts hunt for DOE climate officials

Scott Pruitt EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt is paraded in front of cameras in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. (Photo: Still from NBC News)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – In a choice that couldn’t be worse for the global environment, US President Elect Donald Trump has forwarded someone who is suing the Environmental Protection Agency as his choice to run it.

Trump transition team is also seeking to identify scientists who worked on climate change issues and attended UN climate change conferences at the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy.

Trump’s EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt, was as Oklahoma’s attorney general a chief architect of a litigious bluster to dismantle President Obama’s climate change policies.

“This is just bad – you would have to work hard to find anyone worse,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge on Thursday. “It’s depressing news that will make our work more difficult and more important than ever.”

Describing himself on LinkedIn as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” Pruitt joined an effort among state attorneys general to overturn the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s regulations to cut carbon pollution.

COP21 The Eiffel Tower lighted during the Paris climate summit. (Photo: www.arc2020.eu)

Obama’s plan is central to US commitments to the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

But Pruitt has repeatedly stated that climate change is just a matter of opinion.

He’s called the debate on climate change “far from settled,” and painted climate deniers as righteous dissenters unfairly targeted with “threats of prosecution.”

If Trump has offered any dim hope he might back away from his Twitter feed bombast that climate change is “bullsh*t and a Chinese “hoax,” or that he would “cancel” the Paris Agreement, his nomination of Pruitt, who intimately embraces those views, sinks it.

On November 22, Trump told the New York Times he had “an open mind to” climate change. On December 4, he summoned climate change activist extraordinaire Al Gore to Trump Tower for a meeting. Later, he sent the former vice-president to the gilded lobby’s camera banks, where, on bended knee, Gore called his meeting with Trump “a sincere search for areas of common ground.”

Trump’s nomination of Pruitt as his EPA head only two days after that meeting seems especially insulting, and makes Gore, in his Monday attempt to describe the emperor’s new clothes, look ridiculous.

The effect is hardly coincidental. The climate change agenda seemed scheduled for public humiliation once Gore accepted the invitation, which was initially extended by Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. The First Daughter, whose comfort among the East Coast elite is seen as bridge to her father’s blunt populism, has yet to emerge from her friends’ whispers to the press with an opinion of her own. Gore might as well have written to “Dear Ivanka” instead.

gore ivank MSNBC still Al Gore and ivanka Trump in a YouTube still from MSNBC news.

Meanwhile, it’s not just international environmental cooperation Pruitt has a distaste for. He’s fought long and hard to give people in his state an unbearable and toxic environment. He’s fought protections against mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollutants from power plants. He’s sued to overturn an EPA rule slightly enlarging the scope of the Clean Water Act. He’s brought one lawsuit after the other against standards for reducing soot and smog pollution that cross state lines.

And he’s offered himself as a pliable mouthpiece for talking points dreamed up by the oil and gas industries.

In 2011, Pruitt wrote a letter to the EPA taking it to task for supposedly overstating pollution caused by natural gas wells in Oklahoma. The letter was actually written by one of the state’s biggest gas company’s, a New York Times investigation showed.

The discovery of  the letter’s origins revealed how closely Pruitt and other state attorneys general were working with gas companies to dismantle Obama regulations, and getting millions of dollars for their ax jobs in return.

Trump’s anti-science view of things – and his shaky relationship with facts in general – is prompting many scientists in the US to gird their loins for the next four years, during which they expect their research to get trashed by tendentious legal action and political harassment.

The Washington Post reports of researchers and Nobel Laureates circulating petitions pleading with Trump to respect the rule of data and fact, and not interfere to change just because he doesn’t like what they say. Elizabeth Kolbert described in the the New Yorker  a manual several leading scientists developed, entitled “Handling Political Harassment and Legal Intimidation: A Pocket Guide for Scientists.”

A manual seems timely. Trump’s eerie questionnaire to the Energy Department asks for employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate conferences over the last five years to be identified. This includes anyone who had anything to do with America’s role in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Trump also wants their emails and other documents associated with any meetings on developing US climate strategy.

The new approach seems the prelude to a purge. Gore humiliated in a Trump Tower tribunal. The EPA set to be put in the pocket of someone who will destroy it. DOE officials snitched out for impolitic research. And yet we hope for Ivanka…

 

 

 

Charles Digges

charles@bellona.no