Disaster is Making its Way to the EPA


Clarion photo Ally Grimaldi

The graph shows the chance for seismic activity in the U.S.

By Ally Grimaldi, Editor-in-Chief

It makes just about as much sense to appoint a climate change denier to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as it does for a baboon to ride a tricycle on water skis.

As a completely unqualified and inexperienced candidate himself, it is no surprise that Donald Trump has taken the liberty to select officers for his cabinet that exude the same lack of competence as he does. While Betsy DeVos and Steve Bannon have conjured up quite the storm among concerned citizens, the two buffoons may be the least of our worries. If elected, Trump’s pick for head of the EPA will have the means, motive, and opportunity to destroy the world as we know it.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R-OK), Trump’s selection for the role, has made a career off of his hatred for the EPA. In addition to suing the agency 14 times over various claims of “restricting the American people from living freely” and having “too many regulations,” through fracking, Pruitt has unquestionably contributed to the dramatic spike in earthquakes that his home state has endured.
As of 2011, the year in which Pruitt took office, Oklahoma experienced approximately 60 3.0+ magnitude earthquakes per year. In just the six years that Pruitt has served as attorney general, that number has skyrocketed, jumping to ten times the previously-measured amount. In fact, according to CNN, some areas of Oklahoma face the same level of risk as high-hazard parts of California.

Unlike California, however, Oklahoma’s earthquakes are not easily explained away by location. While California rests precisely on the tectonic plate boundary of the Juan de Fuca and North American plates, endangering the high risk for quakes, Oklahoma resides in a safe-zone. The risk for natural-occurring earthquakes is extremely rare in the flat expanse of oil and natural gas-rich land that is Oklahoma. Yet, with rumbling scares tallying at over a thousand and counting per year, it is undeniable that Oklahoma has more to worry about than the Wicked Witch of the West.

Experts cite the dramatic rise in earthquakes as being attributed to the chemical-laced fluids and sands injected into the wells beneath Oklahoma’s surface as a consequence of extracting oil and gas, aka fracking. So yes, Oklahoma’s startling upswing in earthquakes is caused due to detrimental human activity. As the biggest oil and natural gas producing state in the U.S., Oklahoma’s underground territory has become a cesspit of toxic and chemical-ridden porridge as a result of America’s incessant hunger for fossil fuels. Simply stated, Mother Nature just cannot take the demands that Oklahoma is forcing upon her, and she is fighting back with devastation in return.
One would guess that as attorney general, Pruitt would fight tirelessly to resolve one of Oklahoma’s most rattling issues. One would guess wrong. Pruitt has largely ignored the problem, choosing instead to dedicate time towards his never-ending lawsuits against the EPA. Throughout his time in office, Pruitt has actually worked to invest more money into fracking and has fought to dismantle regulations to conserve Oklahoma’s environment.

Pruitt is also directly responsible for the furthered contamination of one of his state’s largest water sources: the 1.1 million acre Illinois River watershed. In 2005, former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson sued poultry producers for damages caused by water pollution. Previously, these companies had been dumping greater than 300,000 tons of chicken excrements into the ponds, lakes, and streams that feed into the river. When Pruitt ran for office, $40,000 was donated to his campaign by the poultry industry. When he was elected, Pruitt decided to place the case file opened by Edmondson on the back burner before the accused companies could be charged. To this day, the trial has not been finalized. As a result, the phosphorus and nitrates in the chicken manure have since caused algae blooms to erupt throughout the watershed. Harmful algal blooms are not only detrimental to the underwater ecosystems that inhabit the watershed–they can also have adverse effects on human health. Pruitt’s endless greed is the frontrunner to thank for the purposeful contamination of a watershed that sources millions of people.

Additionally, Pruitt has collected $4.2 million from fossil fuel companies since 2013. In return, Pruitt has eagerly advocated to expand Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas reach, dismantling laws and regulations to plow through projects and swim in the wealth. After all, who cares about safe drinking water, clean air, and earthquake risk when you’ve got money to burn?

Pruitt has not just benefited monetarily from his opposition to the EPA; he has made a career of it. Furthermore, Pruitt is a climate change denier, which makes him exponentially more dangerous to hold the office of the agency dedicated to environmental protection law. While Pruitt has never definitively voiced his stance on climate change, his position on the issue is obvious. Pruitt’s reach extends only as far as the money goes, and he has no interest in catering to the wellbeing of the planet.

Under a Trump administration, Pruitt is looking forward to “regulatory rollback,” said the attorney general. “Washington has become way too consequential in the lives of citizens across the country.” It is uncertain what exactly Pruitt will do with his newfound power, but experts hypothesize that Pruitt will make efforts to dismantle existing laws and regulations that the EPA has in place. “Environmental protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations,” voiced Trump. “We are going to get rid of it in almost every form.”

Efforts will likely include pulling out of the Paris Agreement and dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan, to say the least. Said Pruitt, “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations.”

Pruitt has the means, motive, and opportunity to destroy the world as we know it, and he certainly has demonstrated on his home state the amount of damage he can invoke. However, while the future seems dubious, we can find relief in the fact that it will be very difficult to dismantle current regulations. In order to do so, Pruitt and Trump “would have to overcome mountains of evidence that greenhouse-gas emissions do, in fact, cause harm,” said Michael Wara, an associate law professor at Stanford who studies energy and the environment. “And in the world of rulemaking, facts do matter.”

These setbacks are, in fact, just setbacks. In the grand scheme of things, Pruitt’s power is limited to the EPA; the people of the U.S. are much grander a force to be reckoned with than a greedy, ignorant baboon. Our best bet at deferring the world of destruction and detriment that Pruitt has unleashed on Oklahoma is by staying informed and advocating for the Earth. Pruitt might have the means, motive, and opportunity to destroy the world, but we have the means, motive, and opportunity to stop him.