Time to Fire the Fireman

Like the fireman in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451, whose job is to burn books rather than save them, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has perverted the Environmental Protection Agency’s mission with a radical agenda to undermine not only the agency itself but also more than half a century of bipartisan environmental progress in this country. That’s why the Sierra Club has joined 10 other national environmental organizations in demanding that Pruitt be fired immediately. And thanks to an ever-mounting series of scandals, it might just happen.

But though its his scandals that could bring him down, Pruitt’s entire tenure is grounds for dismissal. He has betrayed the EPA’s historic mission, with aggressive attempts to undermine air and water safeguards, muzzle the voices of scientists, and cut sweetheart deals for polluters. Scott Pruitt is like a CEO whose overarching goal is to see his own company fail. Little wonder that nearly 1,000 EPA employees have left the agency since Pruitt’s appointment and that morale among those who remain has plummeted.

During his first year, Pruitt has taken action to rescind or “reconsider” protections from fugitive methane emissions, air pollution from heavy trucks, and toxic coal ash waste — typically after meeting with the polluters who would benefit. He wants to weaken already-approved clean car standards and has rejected the Clean Power Plan (not to mention established science on climate change) out of hand.

One of Pruitt’s most shocking and callous decisions concerned chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that can cause brain damage in children and is so dangerous that in 2000 the EPA advised banning it. But in a pattern that he’s followed repeatedly, Pruitt rejected both basic science and the advice of his predecessors. He ignored calls from families, health professionals, and scientists. He listened instead to campaign donors who profit from toxic chemicals and chose to reverse a pending ban on chlorpyrifos.

This pattern has been consistent throughout Scott Pruitt’s career. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, he sued to block the EPA’s mercury and air toxics standards. His rationale? Maybe mercury isn’t all that dangerous. That’s like your doctor telling you that smoking isn’t so bad for your health. Now, as EPA administrator, Pruitt has delayed these same standards, which would protect all Americans by limiting the amount of toxins that power plants can dump into our waterways. It’s estimated that, if fully enforced, these protections would prevent 11,000 premature deaths and save taxpayers roughly $90 billion in healthcare costs annually.

Finally, adding financial insult to environmental injury, Scott Pruitt has done all of this damage to the EPA and its mission from a first-class airplane seat that you and I paid for. In fact, Pruitt is currently the subject of multiple investigations for wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on his own luxury travel — including more than $120,000 to fly to Italy, where he took a pasta-making class.

When not traveling first-class on the taxpayers’ dime, Pruitt enjoyed a sweetheart deal on a D.C. condo owned by the wife of a fossil fuel lobbyist (and then wasted thousands in taxpayer dollars pushing that lobbyist’s agenda on a trip to Morocco). The same lobbyist also represents the American Automotive Policy Council, which includes automakers such as Ford, which has been lobbying Pruitt to roll back clean car standards.

Enough is enough. Administrator Pruitt has shown consistent disregard for American taxpayers and the health and safety of American families. Meanwhile, his list of favors for corporate polluters only keeps growing. Scott Pruitt is a threat to our health, to our water and air, and to our country. The sooner he’s gone, the better.

Dad, husband, executive director of the @sierraclub, writer, Jersey Shore native, Little League coach, #Yankees fan, climate hawk. Optimist. Love the Bay Area.

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