As an Oklahoman, it has been both fascinating and terrifying to follow the news surrounding Scott Pruitt’s nomination for head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s been my state’s attorney general since 2011. Under his watch, Oklahoma citizens and the environment, have suffered due to Pruitt’s policies and lack of action.
We’ve dealt with high levels of mercury in our lakes for years. In 2013, I wrote about mercury for Green Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) had found 32 of Oklahoma’s lakes contained fish with high levels of mercury. This number hasn’t improved. In fact, it’s gotten worse. Now there are 40 lakes in Oklahoma with high levels of mercury!
One of the lakes recently added to the list is Lake of the Arbuckle. I’ve spent a lot of time on this lake, enjoying years of camping and boating with my grandparents. Friends and family fished and feasted on fresh fish meals taken right from the lake. It’s also a major economy boost for the area, as its natural beauty attracts many tourists.
Now all must visit the lake with caution because of dangerous mercury advisories.
While Oklahomans were seeing our lakes suffer from poisonous mercury – a dangerous neurotoxin – Scott Pruitt was suing the EPA to block a rule restricting how much mercury could be admitted into the air by coal power plants.
The lawsuits have been sketchy…
During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt claimed, “there was no argument that we made from a state perspective that mercury is not a hazardous pollutant under Section 112 (of the Clean Air Act). Our argument focused upon the cost-benefit analysis that the EPA failed to do.”
However, Pruitt’s 2012 lawsuit asserted that, “the record does not support EPA’s findings that mercury, non-mercury HAP metals, and acid gas HAPs pose public health hazards.”
With Pruitt as our attorney general, it’s been my feeling all along that he is not interested in working to protect the interests of the people in his state. Instead, he has worked to protect the interests of the fossil fuel industry, over the health of his citizens.
In 2014, it was reported by the New York Times that Pruitt sent the EPA a letter on state government stationery accusing federal regulators for overestimating industry air pollution. This letter was almost entirely written by Devon Energy, one of the biggest oil and gas companies in Oklahoma.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) brought this up at the confirmation hearing, asking Pruitt if he would acknowledge that he “presented a private oil company’s position, rather than a position developed by the people of Oklahoma.”
Pruitt disagreed, “the efforts I took as attorney general were representing the interest of the state of Oklahoma.” Sen. Merkley continued to push, asking how he could say he was representing the people of Oklahoma if he had “simply only consulted an oil company to push it’s own point of view for it’s private profit.” Pruitt stated he “was representing the interest of an industry in the state of Oklahoma, not a company.” He cited the fact that the oil industry is “a very important industry to our state” as justification for his actions.
If Pruitt hasn’t protected his own state of Oklahoma from mercury because he doesn’t believe it poses enough of a public health risk, how can I believe he will protect my family?
Scott Pruitt was wrong for Oklahoma and he is wrong for our country.