Scott Pruitt Is Making the EPA Safe for Fossil Fuels Again

Tom Fox/TNS via ZUMA

This is yesterday’s news, but I never got around to highlighting it. However, it’s worth noting, if only for the historical record:

Effective immediately, scientists who receive EPA funding cannot serve on the agency’s three major advisory groups…. “We want to ensure that there’s integrity in the process and that the scientists that are advising us are doing so without any type of appearance of conflict of interest,” EPA head Scott Pruitt said at a press conference announcing the directive.

The effect of this order is pretty obvious. Scientists who receive EPA funding are mostly academics who study climate change, dangerous chemicals, endangered species, and so forth. Get rid of those folks, and you can stock up the advisory groups with scientists hired by corporations, homebuilders, and coal companies. As near as I can tell, there’s barely even a pretense that there’s any other reason. Just a bit of obvious blather about conflicts of interest, along with some dog whistles to evangelicals.¹ And with that, the deed is done.

Those of us of a certain age have grim memories of James Watt, Reagan’s first secretary of the Interior. Scott Pruitt appears to be his identical twin separated at birth. Watt was eventually forced to resign, but not because he wanted to blanket every acre of wilderness with coal mines and oil drilling. It was because he told a racist joke. Unfortunately, Pruitt probably learned from that and will limit his actions to making America safe for fossil fuels.

¹In this case, it wasn’t really a dog whistle. Pruitt just straight up quoted from the Book of Joshua for no real reason. But in case you don’t know, the key word to watch for is “stewardship.” It sounds benign, but among evangelicals it’s the go-to word that describes the Lord’s plan: namely that he provided us lots of coal and oil and timber, and by God we should use it.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.