10 Questions the Senate Must Ask Pruitt and Tillerson

10 Questions the Senate Must Ask Pruitt and Tillerson

Questions for Scott Pruitt, Nominate as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1. Pruitt, 10 percent of American women have dangerous levels of mercury in their bodies. But recent data shows that since the U.S. started cleaning up emissions from coal power plants, not only has mercury pollution in the North Atlantic fallen dramatically, so has the concentration of mercury in Atlantic fisheries. Mercury in Atlantic blue-fin tuna is down 19 percent in only eight years.

Q: Given this resounding confirmation that regulation works, how firmly can you assure us that if you are confirmed, EPA's recent successful crackdown on all sources of mercury emissions, including coal power plants will accelerate, rather than pulling back?

2. The president election has pledged that the kind of poisoning that devastated Flint "would have never happened if I were president." More than 1,000 American communities have lead poisoning levels at least four times higher than Flint's. More than 18 million American live in communities that don't properly test or violate, lead and copper contamination rules.

Q: How many years will it take the Trump Administration to achieve pure, safe, drinking water for all Americans? Have you discussed with the president elect the resources you will need to deliver on his promise that a Flint-like crisis will never happen again? In addition to federal financial commitments, what other changes in laws or regulations will you need to guarantee every American family that their kids can drink the water without fear?

3. You have attacked the Obama Administration's "Waters of the United States" regulation, objecting to "the significant negative impact such a rule would inflict on states and the landowners within their borders." Oklahoma's major streams and rivers lie within two river basins, the Red and the Arkansas, both of which flow into other states. And Oklahoma receives most of its waters from upstream neighbors, particularly Texas.

Q: Without national regulation, how would you suggest that that Oklahoma's downstream neighbors—Arkansas and Louisiana—guarantee the quality of the water that flows across their boundaries? And how would you suggest that Oklahoma protects the quality of the water that it receives from upstream neighbors like Texas? You appear to believe that the only parties with an interest in water are those within a state, not downstream neighbors. Why?

4. You campaigned in 2010 against a "one-size-fits-all strategy" towards environmental protection. That phrase is sometimes used to imply that whether American children should be adequately—or inadequately—protected against poisonous air, water and food should be based on the political jurisdiction in which they happen to live.

Q: Is that what you meant—that air and water health standards should vary from state to state? Do children's hearts or senior's lungs vary in their vulnerability to pollution between Okahomans and Californians? Do you accept the premise at the heart of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts that every American, wherever they live, should have a science based, legally guaranteed right to clean air, pure water and healthy food? Or do you think these decisions should be made by local politicians based on interest group lobbying?

5. In recent years spills, leaks and collapses of coal ash impoundments have become a greater and greater hazard to clean water. In fact, more than half of the total toxic water pollution found in America's rivers, lakes and streams comes from such impoundments.

Q: Do you believe that coal ash from power plants and other coal burning facilities should be regulated as a hazardous pollutant, given that it's chemical composition includes lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic? What would you do as Administrator to ensure that the kinds of ash spills recently devastating Kingston, Tennessee, and Dan River, North Carolina, never again occur, anywhere?

These 10 questions are as much as a blog can handle—but a robust Senate confirmation hearing should probe a far wider range of topics and more deeply. Please, think up your own key questions for Tillerson and Pruitt—and for other Trump cabinet nominees like Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke. Send them to your Senators—Republican and Democratic—and urge them to ask them and insist on real answers, not politically correct evasions. And then turn your questions into a letter to the editor of your local paper. Let's take control of the conversation—as Abraham Lincoln said, what really matters in the long run in public sentiment. With it, everything, even surviving Donald Trump, is possible.

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