Scott Pruitt Is Betting on Your Silence

The EPA has asked the public to comment on whether and which government safeguards should be gutted—another sign that Scott Pruitt’s “back to basics” agenda is all about taking us back to a more polluted America.

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)

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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. 

  • 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.

    Marty joined Earthjustice in 1995 and led the organization’s Policy and Legislation Department for more than 25 years before assuming his current role in 2023. Marty played a leadership role in the multi-year effort that resulted in the $369 billion in climate and environmental justice investments contained in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

    Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.