Upon winning the presidential elections in 2016, Donald Trump immediately moved to install Scott Pruitt as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies. Given Pruitt’s credentials as a long-term climate change denier who has links with big polluters, climate change and environmental activists were justifiably concerned that the gains made under the previous administration are set to be rolled back under the new.
In the first 100 days, Pruitt has begun dismantling the Clean Power Plan. This legislation represents the only national carbon dioxide limit on industry. Its abandonment is guaranteed to see emissions of CO2 and other pollutants rocket in the short-term, which could have equally harmful effects on the environment and public health. To compound this act, Pruitt has also campaigned vociferously for the White House to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords under which the United States has agreed to take the necessary steps to limit global temperature rise to below 2°C.
Pruitt has attacked the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) which is in place to limit the amount of mercury and other harmful neurotoxins that are permitted in the environment. This is despite the fact that almost all the power plants in the U.S. already comply with MATS, and initial fears that reducing levels of toxins would prove costly have turned out to be unfounded.
When it comes to internal reforms to the structure of the EPA, Pruitt has also made quite an impact. First, he has declined to reappoint many of the neutral scientific advisors who previously worked with the EPA under the previous administration. Instead, Pruitt has replaced them with a series of “industry-friendly” advisors whose integrity is compromised by their links to polluting industries. Many of these advisors hold controversial views on climate change which run in contrary to the climate science commonly accepted by the vast majority of the scientific world.
Pruitt has also prepared the ground for Trump’s plan to reduce the funding for the EPA by 31%. Such a significant budget cut is likely to lead to a dangerous reduction in environmental protections and the ability of the EPA to enforce the regulations that remain in place after the shake-up.
If the first 100 days of Pruitt’s stewardship of the EPA are anything to go by, Trump’s promise to slash environmental protections and regulations could soon lead to a radically different set of hoops for polluters to jump through.