Trump Picks 'Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry' to Head EPA
Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and has waged numerous legal wars against the EPA and President Obama's environmental regulations, including the president's signature Clean Power Plan.
Pruitt, who was elected as Oklahoma's top legal officer in November 2010, states on his own LinkedIn page that he "has led the charge with repeated notices and subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership's activist agenda and refusal to follow the law."
Although the president-elect will not be able to completely cancel Obama's historic carbon emissions standards for power plants, having a legally experienced EPA head can help "substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them," the New York Times reported.
Pruitt was among a handful of other attorneys general that began planning as early as 2014 a coordinated legal effort to fight the Obama Administration's climate rules. That effort has resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. The case is now pending in federal court, but likely to advance to the Supreme Court, the New York Times said.
Watch this Fox Business interview with Pruitt in August 2015 when he was leading the charge against the EPA's guidelines on emissions, calling the 2015 EPA rules a power grab:
Trump's latest appointee falls in line with his other cabinet picks who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change. Pruitt once wrote an editorial questioning "the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."
The Heartland Institute, a nonprofit that questions the reality and import of climate change, celebrated Trump's EPA appointment. H. Sterling Burnett, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, said in response, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"
Keith Gaby, the senior communications director of the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that since 2002, Pruitt has "received more than $314,996 from fossil fuel industries." In 2014, Pruitt was infamously caught sending letters to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. Turns out, the letter was by lawyers for one of state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.
Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, was also co-chairman of Pruitt's 2013 re-election campaign.
Pruitt's appointment has been met with unprecedented criticism by environmental and health organizations nationwide.
"By appointing Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump is putting America at risk," Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said. "Pruitt is a pure product of the oil and gas industry, installed in successive government posts to sell out his constituents at every turn. He will push this country far behind the rest of the world in the race for 21st century clean energy. With Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, the people and the environment will be in the hands of a man who cares about neither."
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, agrees. "The mission of the EPA and its administrator requires an absolute commitment to safeguard public health and protect our air, land, water and planet. That's the litmus test. By naming Pruitt, President-elect Trump has flunked," Suh exclaimed.
Suh wrote in a blog post on Monday that "over the past five years, Pruitt has used his position as Oklahoma's top prosecutor to sue the EPA in a series of attempts to deny Americans the benefits of reducing mercury, arsenic and other toxins from the air we breathe; cutting smog that can cause asthma attacks; and protecting our wetlands and streams."
"You couldn't pick a better fossil fuel industry puppet," 350.org's Executive Director May Boeve said. "Pruitt's appointment reveals Trump's climate flip-flopping and meetings with Gore as nothing more than a smokescreen."
Why we should never get over the U.S. House Science Committee's Breitbart tweet: @EcoWatch https://t.co/uhNh24yRCF #climate— climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)1481054460.0
And the outcry didn't stop there.
Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, said, "It's a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history."
CEO and president of Defenders of Wildlife, Jamie Rappaport Clark, added, "We need a leader for EPA who fully appreciates the gravity of the menace that climate change poses for our nation's public health, our wildlife and our environment, and is prepared to use the full force of our nation's strong environmental laws to curb that threat. Mr. Pruitt is plainly not that person."
Leaked Memo Outlines Trump’s Energy Agenda https://t.co/AtqVkMsWZf @carbonmeme @ukycc— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481106307.0
Food & Water Watch's executive director, Wenonah Hauter, shared her dismay, too. Pruitt has championed the interests of industrial agriculture in his state, supporting a dubious, deregulatory 'right to farm' initiative that residents rightly rejected at the ballot box this year. He's also sued the EPA over the Waters of the U.S. rule that effectively strengthens the Clean Water Act."
"Pruitt is a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry," Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, said. "Any Senator who doesn't fight this nomination is handing corporate polluters a wrecking ball to destroy our future."
World Resources Institute's Director Sam Adams said, Americans depend on EPA to promote human health and protect families and future generations. Its ability to protect air, water, and the climate for all people must continue."
Friends of the Earth climate and energy program director Benjamin Schreiber concurred. "As the Attorney General, Scott Pruitt did the bidding of the oil and gas industry and fought many of the laws he will now be tasked to enforce," Schreiber said. "He helped Big Oil turn Oklahoma into an Earthquake zone."
5.0 #Earthquake Rattles #Oklahoma Oil Town of Cushing https://t.co/oSmA6j4fRs @joshfoxfilm @MarkRuffalo @FrackAction @foodandwater @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478528994.0
David Turnbull, campaigns director at Oil Change International, concluded, "We call on Senators to reject this nomination, as well as other climate-denying, unqualified and regressive nominees. There is no place in our government for individuals who refuse to accept science and risk the safety of Americans around the country. There is no place in our government for individuals who are in clear alliance with the industry fueling our climate crisis. We need a separation of oil and state."
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Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.
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By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>