Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Documentary shows sharp turn in environmental policy from Obama to Trump, mainly via Pruitt

Fossil-fuel industries have quickly turned from losers to winners with the change in the White House, and the big change is documented in "War on the EPA," a PBS "Frontline" documentary to be broadcast and posted online tonight. "The entire Obama environmental legacy is at stake," producer James Jacoby said this morning on MSNBC.

The show is essentially a profile of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who fought Obama's EPA as attorney general of Oklahoma and is trying to dismantle much of its major work, reports James Warren of The Poynter Institute, who saw an early version of the show. He writes, "Its strength is on-the-record interviews with key players on both sides, ranging from bombastic Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray and Southern Co. lobbyist Andrew Miller, on one side, to former top Obama aides and officials, as well as reporters [Jane] Mayer of The New Yorker and The New York Times' Eric Lipton on the other."

Warren adds, "Lipton won a Pulitzer Prize for astonishing disclosures about the relationship between the attorneys general, led by Pruitt, and the industry that supported them. It's as vivid a demonstration as one can find about the nexus of money and power. But, lest one get too cheery about the positive impact of great journalism, watch one Republican strategist on 'Frontline' declare that Lipton's revelations not only didn't hurt Pruitt in Oklahoma, they may have helped a man whose acts included copying energy company-crafted letters, and putting his letterhead on them, in filing protests with the EPA."

Meanwhile, today the Senate "will weigh whether to confirm as the chemical industry’s top regulator a scientist who over the past two decades has helped companies argue against stricter government regulation of potentially harmful compounds in everyday products," writes Brady Dennis of The Washington Post. "Critics say Michael Dourson, a University of Cincinnati professor and longtime toxicologist, is too closely tied to the chemical industry, and has too many conflicts of interest, to be considered for such a post. They point specifically to the nonprofit consulting group he founded in 1995, which over the years has produced research for chemical companies that showed little or no human health risks for their products." Other EPA nominations are also before the Senate today.

Pruitt and President Trump are playing to their partisan base, Dino Grandoni writes for the Post: "Although only 32 percent of U.S. adults approve of the Trump administration's handling of environmental issues, according to a Gallup poll conducted in June, a large majority — 69 percent — of Republicans favor it. . . . A few swing states crucial to Trump's margin of victory in the electoral college — Pennsylvania and Ohio — have a disproportionate number of voters working in fossil-fuel industries, while a few others — Iowa and Indiana — are full of farmers. Many of them were worried about how the Obama administration's water-pollution regulation . . . would hamstring the agriculture business." But “Even for those who don’t live in areas that are dependent upon energy-industry jobs, the energy issues became a line in the sand: If you can’t stand with us on energy, you can’t stand with us, period,” Scott Jennings, a Kentucky-based Republican consultant, told the Post.

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