Scott Pruitt Talks Big, But the Details Keep Getting in His Way

Duke Energy officials show off the latest coal ash leak from one of their power plants. This one leaked coal ash into the Dan River at Eden, NC in 2014.John D. Simmons/TNS/ZUMAPRESS

Poor Scott Pruitt. He’s dedicated to tearing down every environmental rule he can think of, but it turns out he’s doing a shoddy job of it. And while his boss might not care about that, it turns out that the courts do. Here’s the Washington Post today:

In March, as part of Scott Pruitt’s aggressive campaign to roll back federal regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed relaxing standards for storing potentially toxic waste produced by coal-burning power plants.

EPA officials cited a study indicating that forcing utilities to get rid of unlined coal ash ponds too quickly could strain the electrical grid in several regions of the country. But when environmental advocates scrutinized the specifics, they discovered a problem: The evidence cited was not established scientific research. Instead, the agency was relying on a four-page document by the utility industry’s trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, which has acknowledged that its conclusions were not “part of or a summary of a larger study.”

….The coal ash proposal is among the more than half-dozen major EPA moves that have been snagged by procedural and legal problems. The delays threaten to tarnish Pruitt’s image as an effective warrior in President Trump’s battle against federal regulations, a reputation that has so far saved the EPA administrator his job amid an array of investigations into ethical and management lapses.

Pruitt thinks that science is just hogwash, yet another part of the academy controlled by liberals and whale huggers. So he’s fine with justifying EPA’s proposals using excerpts from industry pamphlets, fossil fuel advertising, or whatever else comes to hand. Unfortunately for him, the court system takes the idea of science a little more seriously and wants to see actual analysis performed by actual scientist who have at least a nodding acquaintance with actual evidence. This is a serious roadblock to Pruitt’s ambitions. Sad.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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