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Scott Pruitt Is Betting on Your Silence

EPA Ozone Hearing

Janet Rodriguez, a fifth grader from Oakland, Calif., wears a mask adorned with an "I Love Clean Air" logo at a rally outside of an EPA hearing on ozone in Sacramento on Feb. 2, 2015.

Chris Jordan-Bloch/Earthjustice

The following comments were submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency, in response to Scott Pruitt's call for public engagement. You have until May 15th to tell him why you need environmental safeguards to protect your family and health.

"I was born with asthma and am so concerned that this trend will become more and more severe as regulations are cut back."

"In my lifetime, the Narragansett has become a fisher's river. You can see across the Hudson, and people use the east river as a tourist attraction instead of a sewer. In summer, you can swim at Jones Beach. All these changes are due to regulations enforced by the EPA. Without environmental regulations, corporations dumped raw sewage and industrial waste directly into the waterways, destroying essential wetlands and human habitats alike. Without regulation, we will suffer along with our environments."

"As someone who grew up in a period where few regulations existed and was exposed to smog, filthy water, contaminated soil because business and industry had their eye on the bottom line, I am appalled at the President's agenda and what looks like the gutting of almost all environmental regulation. Climate change is REAL. Business and industry do not have a good record where environmental practice is concerned and if they are unfettered, I think we're not only looking at returning to an era where you couldn't open your windows, but at the continued destruction of the ozone layer."


Polluters’ wish lists before our families’ health.

That’s been Scott Pruitt’s guiding principle from day one of his tenure as EPA administrator. From overruling EPA scientists’ recommendations about dangerous pesticides to unraveling the Clean Power Plan to proposing a budget that bulldozes our country’s lead safety programs, Pruitt has shown a brazen and willful disregard for science and public health.

Last week, he opened a new chapter in his assault on our protections. Following Trump’s illegal executive order to eliminate two safeguards for every new protection created for the American public, Pruitt is asking the public to share stories about the supposedly harmful impacts of commonsense public health safeguards that have been protecting families for years. He already has a “wish list” from polluters of regulations they find inconvenient, but now he wants to wrap his polluter presents in the veneer of public support. His goal is clear: to build a pretext for scrapping environmental protections.

In other words, Scott Pruitt is betting on your silence. He’s betting that people like you won’t care enough about clean air and water to speak out. That’s a bet we can’t let him win.

Already, we’re seeing his call for comments begin to backfire. The first public comment begins, “Science is real. Global warming is real.” Another comment focuses on the benefits of the Clean Power Plan. Yet another discusses losing a family member to asthma. Let’s turn this trickle of support for our safeguards into something more.

I urge you spend a few minutes answering Scott Pruitt’s call for public engagement. Tell him why you need environmental safeguards to protect your family and health. Tell him that you demand an EPA that fulfills its founding mission to protect human health and the environment. If you feel so inclined, upload a document that shows the importance of environmental safeguards, whether it’s a photo of your family or the last bill for your asthma inhalers.

In 1971, the EPA launched Documerica, a project to capture images of environmental problems, EPA activities and everyday life in America. Freelance photographers captured more than 15,000 photos of the heightened air and water crises of that time. These pictures show us the situation we could return to if we defang and defund the EPA. 

  • October, 1973: Mary Workman holds a jar of undrinkable water that came from her well near Steubenville, Ohio. She has to transport water from a well many miles away, and she has filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    October, 1973: Mary Workman holds a jar of undrinkable water that came from her well near Steubenville, Ohio. She has to transport water from a well many miles away, and she has filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company.
  • April, 1974: Abandoned automobiles and other debris clutter an acid water- and oil-filled five-acre pond near Ogden, Utah. The pond was cleaned up under EPA supervision to prevent possible contamination of the Great Salt Lake and a wildlife refuge nearby.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    April, 1974: Abandoned automobiles and other debris clutter an acid water- and oil-filled five-acre pond near Ogden, Utah. The pond was cleaned up under EPA supervision to prevent possible contamination of the Great Salt Lake and a wildlife refuge nearby.
  • December, 1974: Miner Wayne Gipson, 39, sits with his daughter Tabitha, 3. He has just gotten home from his job as a conveyor belt operator at a non-union mine.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    December, 1974: Miner Wayne Gipson, 39, sits with his daughter Tabitha, 3. He has just gotten home from his job as a conveyor belt operator at a non-union mine.
  • May, 1972: A Navajo workman covers his face at the Peabody Coal Company in Black Mesa, Arizona.
    Lyntha Scott Eiler / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    May, 1972: A Navajo workman covers his face at the Peabody Coal Company in Black Mesa, Arizona.
  • June, 1972: Ex-coal miner is now a black lung victim in Birmingham, Alabama.
    LeRoy Woodson / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    June, 1972: Ex-coal miner is now a black lung victim in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • July, 1972: Children play in housing right next to the U.S. Steel plant in Birmingham, Alabama.
    LeRoy Woodson / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    July, 1972: Children play in housing right next to the U.S. Steel plant in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • June, 1972: Chemical plants on the shores of Lake Charles in Louisiana are considered a prime source of the lake’s pollution.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    June, 1972: Chemical plants on the shores of Lake Charles in Louisiana are considered a prime source of the lake’s pollution.
  • October, 1973: Floyd Lamb holds waste ash that was shipped from Cleveland, Ohio, and dumped in some of the strip pits off of Route 33.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    October, 1973: Floyd Lamb holds waste ash that was shipped from Cleveland, Ohio, and dumped in some of the strip pits off of Route 33.
  • June, 1974: Miner in the Black Lung Laboratory at the Appalachian Regional Hospital undergoing tests while on a treadmill in Beckley, West Virginia.
    Corn Jack / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    June, 1974: Miner in the Black Lung Laboratory at the Appalachian Regional Hospital undergoing tests while on a treadmill in Beckley, West Virginia.
  • July, 1973: Clark Avenue and Clark Avenue Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio, are obscured by smoke from heavy industry.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    July, 1973: Clark Avenue and Clark Avenue Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio, are obscured by smoke from heavy industry.
  • August, 1972: Children play in a yard while a Tacoma smelter stack showers the area with arsenic and lead residue in Ruston, Washington.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    August, 1972: Children play in a yard while a Tacoma smelter stack showers the area with arsenic and lead residue in Ruston, Washington.
  • July, 1972: Smoke and gas from the burning of discarded automobile batteries pours into the sky near Houston, Texas.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    July, 1972: Smoke and gas from the burning of discarded automobile batteries pours into the sky near Houston, Texas.
  • July, 1972: Day becomes night when industrial smog is heavy in North Birmingham, Alabama. Sitting adjacent to the U.S. Pipe plant, this is the most heavily polluted area of the city.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    July, 1972: Day becomes night when industrial smog is heavy in North Birmingham, Alabama. Sitting adjacent to the U.S. Pipe plant, this is the most heavily polluted area of the city.
  • August, 1973: The water cooling towers of the John Amos Power Plant loom over a Poca, West Virginia, home that is on the other side of the Kanawha River. Two of the towers emit great clouds of steam.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    August, 1973: The water cooling towers of the John Amos Power Plant loom over a Poca, West Virginia, home that is on the other side of the Kanawha River. Two of the towers emit great clouds of steam.
  • June, 1973: From the National Water Quality Laboratory comes a photo of the severely deformed spine of a Jordanella fish, the result of methyl mercury present in the water where it lived.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    June, 1973: From the National Water Quality Laboratory comes a photo of the severely deformed spine of a Jordanella fish, the result of methyl mercury present in the water where it lived.
  • February, 1973: Garbage burns at an open dump on highway 112 near San Sebastian, Puerto Rico.
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    February, 1973: Garbage burns at an open dump on highway 112 near San Sebastian, Puerto Rico.

We don’t want to return to a more polluted era in American history when people could count on waterways to froth with the dregs of industry, when lead blew out of the tailpipe of every car and when the air was so heavy with pollution it scorched many city dwellers’ lungs.

Here are a few key numbers that illustrate just how important the EPA’s safeguards really are for our air and water:

160,000 adults and 230 babies

In 2010, the Clean Air Act saved the lives of 160,000 adults and 230 babies. By 2020, the EPA projects it will save 230,280 lives a year that would have been cut short by heart and lung problems caused by air pollution.

400,000 asthma attacks

The EPA’s safeguards for smog and soot pollution from the nation’s power plants prevent 400,000 asthma attacks every year. Scott Pruitt sued, but he failed to overturn these health protections as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

702 billion pounds of pollutants

The EPA’s water safeguards have taken 702 billion pounds of pollutants out of our nation’s waters.

It’s time to flip the script. Safeguards from the EPA and other federal agencies keep the air in our lungs clean and the water in our glasses safe to drink, and they ensure our children are healthy enough to live long and fruitful lives. As Scott Pruitt spouts fossil fuel industry talking points and asks people to share horror stories about crucial public health safeguards, let’s tell the real stories about environmental protections that have improved our lives.


ABOUT THIS SERIES

The 45th U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, is bent on gutting environmental protections, and—with a polluter-friendly Congress at his side—he’ll likely do everything he can to dismantle our fundamental right to a healthy environment. The Capitol Watch blog series will shine a light on these political attacks from Congress and the Trump administration, as well as the work of Earthjustice and our allies to hold them accountable.