The appointment of Scott Pruitt threatens our future

  • Kelly Nichols

    Kelly Nichols

By Kelly Nichols
Guest columnist
Posted1/16/2017 1:00 AM

I find a lot to be concerned about after the rollout of President-elect Trump's Cabinet picks. Many of these nominees are controversial, and many are skeptical of the programs and agencies that they have been picked to lead. I hear the cry for significant change coming from voters, but when the dust settles, will this be the change that people were expecting, or are we just turning over control of our government to big business?

As a parent, I'm especially concerned about how the pick for the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency could end up impacting the health and safety of my family.


The EPA was started by a Republican administration in order to protect our water and air from contamination levels harmful to human health. Since the inception of the EPA, nearly every administrator appointed has had an extensive history in environmental health and environmental protections. The glaringly obvious exception to that rule was Christine Whitman, appointed by President Bush, who assured our 9/11 first responders and NY citizens that they were safe breathing the dust at Ground Zero. She resigned after these statements proved to be misleading and lawsuits were filed against her by those sickened and killed. That's a clear warning sign of what can happen when the EPA administrator has a diminished respect for science. And yet, even she has criticized President-elect Trump's pick of administrator.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Trump's pick to lead the EPA, has no history in environmental science or public health. He says the science on climate change is not settled. He claims that human activity has not changed the atmosphere. He claims we can do nothing about a natural phenomenon that has always occurred. He is against any and all plans to cut the carbon and methane pollution that is dangerously altering our atmosphere.

He has spent his political career challenging the EPA in court. He has sued to protect corporate polluters, and his campaigns have been funded by polluters. Pruitt has vigorously used his office to derail and obstruct clean air safeguards that are broadly supported by Americans in red and blue states alike. This nomination threatens our children and families.

He's fought on the side of industry and big polluters when fighting the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule. Waukegan's coal-fired power plant is the source of the largest amount of mercury pollution in Lake County. Mercury pollution gets into the air and water, and if ingested by a woman while pregnant, can cause brain damage, and hearing and vision problems in the baby. The Waukegan plant is on the edge of Lake Michigan, where many of us get our drinking water, and if protections are rolled back by Pruitt, and big polluters are not required to comply with protections, that could have serious health affects in Lake County.

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Additionally, Lake County has consistently had issues with air pollution. In Illinois, 13 percent of children have asthma, which is higher than the national average. Pruitt has allied himself with energy companies to attack clean air rules. If this trend continues, the "F" grade, given to us by the American Lung Association, for our levels of dangerous ozone (which can lead to premature death, asthma attacks, and cardiovascular harm) will not improve, and will cost our community lives and millions of dollars in health care expenses.

As a parent, I expect our government to protect the rights of the individual and the collective -- not big business. To appoint a man to lead an organization that he fundamentally disagrees with the existence of is the equivalent of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

How can we ensure our air and water are safe if the reports of contamination aren't respected? If the scientists overseeing it aren't supported/funded/believed? There is no issue more important than protecting our families' health and no department more crucial than one that prioritizes the safety of our air and water. We must demand better.

Kelly Nichols, of Highland Park, is Illinois Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, an organization that advocates for children's health related to air pollution and climate change.

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