Vigilance must remain, despite departure of EPA chief

When Scott Pruitt was first appointed to head the Environmental Protection Agency, I was asked in an interview with Jefferson Public Radio whether he was really the worst ever pick for the agency. I replied “yes.”

But even then, I could hardly imagine the damage the now former EPA chief would do. While ignoring decades of scientific research, Scott Pruitt gutted proposed rules for reviewing chemical safety (while rubber-stamping hundreds of new chemicals); rolled back a regulation that requires factories to run their air pollution control systems; was instrumental in getting President Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement; cut funding for water clean-up; began an attack on states’ rights to protect their residents from pollution; and much more.

The EPA is one of our most essential public institutions — by setting and enforcing the rules of the road when it comes to pollution the agency ensures Americans can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and catch healthy fish in our favorite streams. We need the EPA to be a strong steward of the environment, but under Pruitt’s direction, the agency veered away from its mission and the people/environment it is obliged to protect.

While Scott Pruitt’s resignation (under a cloud of ethics scandals) is welcome news, we sadly can’t count on the Trump Administration to appoint an agency head who supports the EPA’s critical mission.

We know that Pruitt — who has actually called himself a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” — is the Trump Administration’s kind of guy. We must all be concerned that Pruitt’s replacement will be no better and may even be worse. In fact, the new acting director, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal-industry lobbyist known for his political savvy.

What happens in Washington, D.C. matters in Oregon. Oregon Environmental Council will continue to vigilantly defend Oregon’s right to protect human health and the natural world that we all need to survive and thrive.

We thank our members for being right there with us.

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