Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pruitt: Not Just Funny

A leaner but not hungrier Scott Pruitt, from your Rectification Central, exposing the former Oklahoma attorney general as a liar since March 2015

When you're enjoying the latest story about EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's corruption—he tried, during work hours and from his office and in clear contravention of ethics law, to pressure the CEO of the Chick-fil-A company into getting his wife a restaurant franchise because it was too much work for her to apply for it in the normal way, and succeeded in getting the chief of Concordia Partnerships of Social Impact to give her a gig ($2000 plus travel expenses) to "help organize" their Annual Summit in New York last September, in a more ordinary kind of Republican welfare—don't forget that these antics are directly connected to the protection of our natural environment.

That is, while Pruitt seems to be spending all his time shopping for luxury furnishings for his office and his apartment, or rather (illegally) forcing the EPA's employees to work as his personal shoppers, for everything from $130 gift pens to $2000 mattresses to be obtained on the cheap from Trump's Pennsylvania Avenue hotel, he is in fact working to prevent the EPA from doing its work, for instance as in last October's attempt to repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan, which will, hopefully, fail, but not for want of effort on Pruitt's part, because Pruitt doesn't believe carbon dioxide emissions have anything to do with global warming, as you can read today from Ars Technica:

In March 2017, Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, appeared on CNBC and said that carbon dioxide was not known to be a major factor in climate change. “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said, adding, “there’s a tremendous disagreement about the degree of the impact” of “human activity on the climate.”
"I would not agree," said the administrator, without explaining the basis for his disagreement, in the same way as Emperor Trump tells us that the agreement to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is "one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed" but never sends a signal as to how he knows, or whether he even knows what it is.

The next day, a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the EPA, asking for any agency documents that Administrator Pruitt may have relied on to come to his conclusions. Since Pruitt’s words contradicted scientific evidence shared by the EPA before the administrator took office, PEER's request might turn up some recent document that indicated Pruitt had new information.
Instead, the EPA stalled and refused to provide any information to PEER. The employee group then sued the agency.
Yesterday, a US District Court judge in the District of Columbia until July 2 to come up with those documents or July 11 to explain why there aren't any, and there's something very gratifying to me in the way the judge argued:
“The agency asks ‘how is one to even know precisely what documents one relies on in forming one’s beliefs?’” the judge wrote in her brief. “As the plaintiff points out, however, nothing in the FOIA request seeks information ‘about Administrator Pruitt’s beliefs or how they were formed.’” Instead, the FOIA only requests any agency documents that the administrator relied on to formulate his public statement.
The judge also called it “particularly troubling" that the EPA argued that evidence for a factual statement by the Administrator can be unknowable. “EPA’s strained attempt to raise an epistemological smokescreen will not work here to evade its obligations under the FOIA,” Judge Howell wrote.
It's not good enough to say "I wouldn't agree." If you can't come up with a reason for changing the policy, you shouldn't be changing the policy. A pure emotion (such as "I hate Obama," which seems to animate Pruitt as much as Trump—when he was Oklahoma attorney general he spent as much time trying to take down the Affordable Care Act as he did trying to take down Obama's environmental actions, with the same bad faith, as I noted at the time) doesn't cut it.

What I want to emphasize is that the clown-show corruption and the bad, deliberately ignorant policy—
Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times while attorney general of Oklahoma and has worked in concert with fossil fuel interests in many of these cases. The recent [also March 2017] release of thousands of Pruitt’s emails during his tenure showed an extremely close relationship between Pruitt’s office and oil and gas companies.
—go together, throughout this administration, though perhaps more hilariously in Pruitt's case than anywhere else. It's not just funny.

The Oklahoma City house where Scott Pruitt lived when he was in town as a state senator with a salary of $38,400, courtesy of a telecommunications lobbyist, the shell company of his friend Kenneth Wagner (now senior advisor for state and regional affairs at the EPA), and a mortgage issued by local banker Albert Kelly (now under a lifetime ban from the finance industry, which didn't stop Pruitt from putting him in charge of the EPA's Superfund program until the ongoing scandal forced him out at the beginning of May).

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