Some on the left upped their angst over the election results another notch when President-elect Trump nominated Oklahoma state attorney Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. Pruitt is said to be a “climate change denier” and someone who will undercut serious protection of our nation’s environment.
Let’s all calm down for a moment and sort through the emotional rhetoric.
What are the facts?
Let’s begin with the allegation “climate change denier.” What’s that supposed to mean? That Mr. Pruitt, like many of the so-called skeptics, denies that climate changes? Of course not.
Climate has always been changing. Every historically aware person knows that (except, apparently, many in the social and mainstream media).
Thousands of years prior to the widespread use of fossil fuels climate changes were as much or more than the recent global warming. So obviously there must be natural causes of climate change besides the recent greenhouse effect of increased CO2.
The question is what percent of recent climate change is due to continuing natural causes and what is due to human causes. Since the natural causes are not well known, it cannot be truthfully claimed that the science is “settled.”
With that, Mr. Pruitt agrees.
Current EPA policies, therefore, which assume virtually all present climate change is due to CO2 emissions, risk vast economic disruptions for next to nothing in return. All pain, no gain. Even the EPA itself admits that these policies will only reduce global temperatures by a few tenths of a degree C. This risk/reward ratio eclipses that of the recent decade of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
What’s the problem then with proceeding a little more cautiously?
What about the allegation that Mr. Pruitt will end serious protection of our environment? That, too, is nonsense.
As attorney general of Oklahoma, he demonstrated that he will take on the energy industry when they harm the environment. Pruitt sued oil companies such as BP when they tried to claim falsely that they had taken corrective action for sites they had polluted. And when he did support that industry, it was to protect Oklahoma workers from certain activist bureaucrats inside the EPA who overstepped their designated role with job punishing regulations.
Like other government bureaucracies, the EPA’s tendency has been to enlarge their domain and thus expand their department’s “prosperity.” Under the Clean Water Act, for example, they ingeniously expanded the notion of “navigable waters” to include farmers’ and ranchers’ shallow ponds. Thus extending their department’s “responsibility” over vast new areas of private property—an extension unforeseen and unauthorized by Congress. So anxious was EPA leadership to grow their department that they failed to follow their own published guidelines concerning necessary peer-review when they issued The Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding in support of new environmental regulations.
What Mr. Pruitt is concerned about isn’t the legitimate EPA role in protecting the environment: it’s about the agency’s clearly demonstrated unconstitutional overreach.
As a proven expert in constitutional law pertaining to the federal regulatory system, Mr. Pruitt will bring the reality of a balanced approach to regulation that respects the values of environmental protection, of the federal-state relationship, and of job opportunities for American workers. As he said a few years ago, “There is a role for the EPA; it’s just that they assert themselves in ways that are above that role.”
Which kind of leader, then, do we want for the EPA—an ideologue, well-intentioned but naïve about the real-world consequences of regulations on both people and the environment, or an experienced negotiator who has demonstrated a clear vision of those consequences? Let’s think clearly about this nomination. And let’s not be manipulated by those who make a career of using our genuine concern for the environment to push through incomplete schemes with high risk/reward ratios.