The EPA has been criticized for being ineffective, and riddled in bureaucracy by those on the left and the right. In 2015, after the EPA in advertently dumped millions of gallons of toxic wastewater from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River upstream from the Navajo Nation, water rights activist Erin Brockovich wrote in a Facebook post, “Face it… they will never clean this up. Mining polluters and their USEPA “handlers” hope they can placate, manipulate, stipulate and dance their way out of yet another complete screw up. The US EPA, the Government of the United States, has used the Navajo Nation as there dumping ground for a century… turning a blind eye and counting on Lake Powell to repeatedly serve as their ‘catch all toilet.’” But Pruitt’s nomination is a giant step backwards in making the EPA an accountable and responsible government agency to help lead the fight against climate change, enforce environmental regulations, and take meaningful action to address environmental issues.
Bernie Sanders tweeted in response to the announcement, “Trump’s nominee to lead EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a climate denier who’s worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. That’s sad and dangerous.” Sanders attached a 2014 New York Times article which outlined Pruitt’s ties to Energy Firms whose interests are contrary to climate change initiatives. He added in a press release, “The American people must demand leaders who are willing to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels. I will vigorously oppose this nomination.”
During Pruitt’s service as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, the controversial oil extraction technique of fracking surged throughout the state. The Washington Post reported there are 73 drilling sites in Oklahoma. Fracking was first used to free natural gas from shale rock through hydraulic fracturing by George Mitchell in 1981. Mitchell, a Texas oil baron whose oil fields were drying up, desperately looking for alternative sources by drilling oil wells. By 1997, one of his fracking wells proved financially viable in the long term, and he sold his company, Mitchell Energy for $3.5 Billion. By that time, the drilling technique began to take off as other oil companies adopted it despite its well-documented adverse environmental and health effects. In Oklahoma, the widespread use of fracking has been linked to an eruption of earthquakes in the region, forcing the state to shutdown several dozen oil operations earlier this year.
The announcement of Pruitt’s nomination given his strong links to the oil and gas industry incited indignant responses from some of the largest environmental organizations in the country.
“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. EPA is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a press release.
President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Rhea Suh, added in a press release, “if confirmed, Pruitt seems destined for the environmental hall of shame, joining the likes of Anne Gorsuch Burford and James Watt, two disastrous cabinet officials in the 1980s.”
350.org co-Founder Bill McKibben published an op-ed in the New York Daily News criticizing Pruitt for serving as a “stenographer” of the oil and gas industry. “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,” he wrote. “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.”