Pruitt starts steering EPA away from climate change, more toward clean water and air

Scott Pruitt on Thursday made clear he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change — and his declaration touched off a firestorm among critics who interpret the remark as concrete proof that the EPA administrator plans to disregard the past eight years and take the agency in a new direction.

Mr. Pruitt offered the comments during a morning interview with CNBC as President Trump was preparing to sign an executive order reversing key government regulations on carbon pollution.

The EPA chief told CNBC that it’s challenging to truly measure humans’ effect on the climate and that there is “tremendous disagreement” about exactly how much carbon pollution contributes to climate change.

“I would not agree that [carbon] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Mr. Pruitt said.

His remarks put him on the opposite side from most climate scientists, researchers, and governments, and underscore a sharp break from the EPA‘s approach over the past eight years.

During the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency was the tip of the spear in a governmentwide fight against climate change. The agency crafted rules such as the Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first set of limits on carbon emissions from power plants.

That rule, which remains tied up in federal court, now is on the chopping block. Mr. Trump is expected to soon direct the EPA to begin the lengthy, complex process of unwinding the plan.

President Obama saw the EPA as a necessary tool in his climate change agenda, but Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt believe the agency should have a more narrow purpose: protecting the nation’s air and water, not trying to stem global temperature rises.

In fact, Mr. Pruitt built his political career challenging the EPA‘s carbon rules in federal court while he served as attorney general of Oklahoma.

“The president has made it very clear that the administration is going to refocus EPA on clean air and clean water. Administrator Pruitt is and has been right in line with that approach,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican strategist and president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies who worked on the Trump transition team.

For environmentalists and Democrats in Congress who already fear what the administration has in store for climate policy, Mr. Pruitt‘s remarks went too far.

“There are only two explanations for Mr. Pruitt‘s outrageous comment: Either our nation’s chief environmental officer is unaware of basic scientific facts, or he is intent upon misleading the public,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Carbon dioxide is one of the most potent and abundant greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, and it is the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. Those are the facts; they are not up for debate. Mr. Pruitt and I can have differences of opinion, and we certainly do, but Mr. Pruitt is not entitled to his own facts.”

Democrats quickly began fundraising off of the issue. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California used the comments to ask for money Thursday afternoon on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“President Trump appointed a climate change denier to lead the EPA — and now we’re seeing the effects. Grassroots Democrats can’t let these horrifying claims go unnoticed. Will you fight back?” she said in the message.

Michael Brune, executive director of the environmental group the Sierra Club, said the Senate should demand that Mr. Pruitt is removed from his post.

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Comments (2)

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    Scott Pruitt is correct. The people who claim natural variables
    that have been responsible for climate change for over 4 billion years have some how
    been supplanted by a trace gas essential for plant growth is sheer nonsense .
    CO2 at a whooping fraction of 1 % of the atmosphere and near a planet historically low is not running the climate show . How could it ?
    The green blob has played a little trick … In their insulated little world they created their own definition of “climate change ” meaning climate change which is 100% attributed to human use of fossil fuel . They couldn’t quantify what the overwhelming effect of natural variables is and they needed to be able to demonize people that were not drinking their cool-aid . So …simple they just whipped up a definition so they could label none believers as deniers . That is why Bill Nye the comedian wiggled when asked the question … how much of climate change is attributable to humans ? His answer 100 % . Does that make sense ? It does if the definition of climate change has been altered to serve an agenda .
    Scott Pruitt is being very diplomatic in his response to what has been the underpinning to biggest scientific con -job in history .

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    Oh the horror! An EPA focused of clean air and water! Start an investigation!!!

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