On Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will testify before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, providing a prime opportunity for the public to hear him address questions about his ongoing efforts to roll back regulations designed to reduce pollution.
His policies and priorities will impact the environment and public health nationwide and beyond, and here are some questions to which the public deserves answers:
- Mr. Pruitt, you said that no one really knows the extent of human impact on climate and that more research is needed before we can take any reasonable action. Why then are you cutting climate research from the EPA budget, scrubbing the EPA website of any climate-related material, and removing scientists from your advisory panel who study climate?
- You are working to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which attempted to place the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from power plants, yet even the Trump administration says that the Plan would prevent as many as 4,500 premature deaths per year by 2030. How is repeal of the Plan in the best interests of American public health?
- The EPA has indicated that it may not replace the Clean Power Plan. Yet the Agency has an obligation under the Clean Air Act (Section 111) to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants, a duty that has been recognized by the US Supreme Court. How does repealing the Clean Power Plan satisfy this duty?
- The Renewable Fuel Standard requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply each year. Congress directed the EPA to produce a report every three years, documenting the program’s environmental impacts, and the only such report, produced in 2011, detailed ways in which the RFS is damaging the quality of air, water, and soil. When will the EPA produce the next Triennial Report and what is being done to reduce the environmental damage being caused by the RFS?
- It has been reported in E&E News that in a recent meeting with an environmental group, you recognized the significance of methane as a serious and potent climate pollutant (methane has 80 times the near term warming power of carbon dioxide), and that regulating both methane and volatile organic compounds from oil and gas sources was important. How does that square with your proposed two-year stay of key provisions of the EPA’s methane New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry?
- Staying the oil and gas methane rule’s deadlines puts millions of Americans at risk for serious health impacts including worsened asthma and even cancer from exposure to harmful and toxic air pollution from oil and gas activities. How do you square the stay with EPA’s duty and purpose under the Clean Air Act to “protect and enhance the quality of the Nation’s air resources, so as to promote the public health and welfare”?
- Oil and gas development activities emit at least 8.1 million metric tons of methane pollution a year. As methane is released, other dangerous gases and chemicals are emitted as well, like ozone smog-forming volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing toxics like benzene. Yet oil and gas companies could cut methane emissions by 40 percent and the cost of production for every thousand cubic feet would only go up by a penny. How do you explain to the American people that their health is not worth that small amount?
- You have proposed this methane rules suspension, despite acknowledging that children will be negatively and disproportionately impacted. How can you put America’s children at risk and still satisfy your mandate to promote the public health and welfare?
- EPA’s website states that it is required “to ensure that national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information.” But a number of environmental groups have sued you recently, arguing that under your watch exactly the opposite is occurring. What steps are you taking to ensure that the best science informs your agency’s decision-making?
And just last week, your Deputy Administrator for Air and Radiation, William Wehrum, announced a roll-back of a 23 year-old policy protecting the public from air toxics like benzene, arsenic, mercury, and acid gases from large industrial facilities, and did so without notice or the opportunity to comment. How does such an action satisfy your duty to promote public health for all Americans?
Mr. Pruitt, the American people are waiting for your answers.