By Liz Perera and Adam Beitman
Scott Pruitt shocked the world last week when he declared that carbon pollution was not the primary driver of the climate crisis. But what was even more shocking was the fact that he clearly and repeatedly misled Congress about his intentions on this critical issue during his confirmation process to serve as the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Pruitt's misleading testimony before the Senate is actually part of a much larger pattern of him misleading Congress.
Pruitt is a baseball fan so let's put it this way: three strikes and you're out. He has proven that he is unfit to do the job he is legally required to do—and unwilling to do it even if he could—meaning he ought to resign. Failing that, the Senate should take action to remove him from his position because, among the most obvious and readily identifiable instances, Pruitt misled Congress at least three times:
- Strike One: Conducting official state business over a private email account.
- Strike Two: His position on climate change and EPA's ability to regulate CO2.
- Strike Three: His history of actively promoting mercury pollution as Attorney General of Oklahoma.
Pruitt Misled Congress About His Emails:
In written testimony to Congress in response to a question from Sen. Cory Booker, Pruitt declared that "I use only my official OAG [Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General] email address and government issued phone to conduct official business."
The Associated Press (AP) revealed that claim to be false when select Pruitt correspondence was ordered released to the public by a court after public interest groups had requested it.
According to AP, multiple instances of such private electronic communication for purposes of conducting public business have been uncovered, "including a 2013 exchange with a petroleum industry lobbyist who emailed Pruitt and a lawyer on the attorney general's staff."
Strike One: Pruitt misled Congress about his use a private email account to conduct official state business.
Pruitt Misled Congress About Climate Change and Regulating Carbon Pollution:
Last week, Pruitt told CNBC that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a "primary contributor" to the climate crisis.
#EPA Chief Denies CO2 as Primary Driver of #ClimateChange https://t.co/r3AbWyBrJQ @SierraClub @ewg @350 @Agent350 @foodandwater @LeoDiCaprio— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489090914.0
But that's a very different tune from what he sang to Congress. In written testimony, Pruitt certified that "I also believe the administrator has an important role when it comes to the regulation of carbon dioxide, which I will fulfill consistent with Massachusetts v. EPA and the agency's Endangerment Finding on Greenhouse Gases respective of the applicable statutory framework established by Congress."
Separately, in an exchange with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Pruitt said "Senator, I believe that the [EPA] administrator has a very important role to perform in regulating CO2."
By offering and affirming that the EPA administrator has an important role in regulating carbon dioxide in light of the EPA's Endangerment Finding (established in the Massachusetts vs. EPA Supreme Court case), Pruitt clearly acknowledged the role carbon pollution plays in driving climate change.
During separate questioning Pruitt also explicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of the endangerment finding, saying: "the endangerment finding is there and needs to be enforced and respected." When pressed by Sen. Markey on whether he would review or alter the finding if confirmed, Pruitt affirmed "There is nothing that I know that would cause a review at this point."
Pruitt clearly made the case to the Senate at the time that he had no reason to reverse the finding that carbon pollution poses a danger by causing climate change, whereas now he says publicly that it does not pose a danger, actively denying the role of carbon pollution as a dangerous climate pollutant.
Strike Two: Pruitt misled Congress about his views on climate change and, more importantly, how carbon pollution should be regulated by the EPA as an air pollutant in light of Supreme Court rulings and the agency's "Endangerment Finding."
Pruitt Misled Congress On His Greenwashing of Toxic Mercury:
In his testimony to Congress, Pruitt denied he had ever argued that the EPA should not regulate mercury pollution in his position suing the agency as Attorney General of Oklahoma. Specifically, Pruitt said "there was no argument that we made from the State perspective that mercury is not a hazardous air pollutant under Section 112."
But the truth is that in legal filings, Pruitt did make the argument that the EPA was breaking the law by regulating mercury and other toxic air emissions. Most damningly, Pruitt signed a legal brief contending that that the benefits of protections against mercury pollution are "small, uncertain and in most instances unquantifiable."
Strike Three: Pruitt attempted the absurd task of arguing that Mercury is not-toxic and then tried to cover it up.
Meet the Top #EPA Official Who Quit After 24 Years to Protest Pruitt & #Trump https://t.co/gVwyPMfANo @DeSmogBlog @SierraClub @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489420900.0
Scott Pruitt: Three Strikes—You're Out!
(Want even more examples of Pruitt misleading Congress? Check out the Environmental Working Group's post from late January).
Conclusion: Pruitt has proven that he is unfit to do the job of protecting the American people from toxic pollution and he misled Congress repeatedly during his confirmation process. For these reasons, he ought to resign. If he refuses, the Senate should take action on its own and remove him from his position.
Liz Perera is the Sierra Club's climate policy director. Adam Beitman is the Sierra Club's deputy national press secretary, covering federal policy, politics and international issues.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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