The Senate voted to confirm stringent anti-environmentalist and energy industry shil Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA on Friday in a move that could have major consequences for the future of renewable energy in the United States.
While the 52-46 vote was split largely on partisan lines, two Red-State Democratic Senators – Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Manchin III (D-WV) – voted to confirm Pruitt to lead the EPA, an agency whose very existence he questions.
This is the sort of betrayal of the Democratic Party and of the American people that is holding back the anti-Trump resistance, and it is incumbent upon all of us to hold our representatives to the highest possible standard.
Heitkamp and Manchin’s shameful vote to confirm Pruitt represents a betrayal of the most basic environmental values and was motivated by nothing but flagrant groveling to corporate interests.
Both centrist Senators hail from states with major fossil fuel industries and have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil, coal, and gas industries in the last several years. In the end, apparently, all that money overpowered whatever conscience and concern for the future of our planet these two Democrats-in-name-only may have held.
With Pruitt at the helm of the EPA the Big Oil fox is truly inside the hen house, and the effects on our environment and our future may be quite serious indeed. Pruitt, who has denied the existence of human-caused climate change, has a long history of cozy ties with the fossil fuel industry, and has repeatedly lobbied against the EPA on their behalf in exchange for cushy campaign donations. Indeed Pruitt’s very nomination to head the EPA is just the latest example of the casual corporate-driven corruption that has infested our body politic in the post-Citizens United era.
Pruitt and Trump have already signaled their intention to repeal numerous Obama-era climate rules that have helped to curb harmful emissions and other pollutants from major industries over the past several years and replace them with spineless pro-oil industry “regulations.” There has even been talk of formulating a legal challenge to the very existence of the EPA, which would represent an enormous and tragic step backwards after years of relative progress on the environment both at home and abroad.
Indeed, Pruitt is so manifestly unqualified for his position that thousands of EPA employees launched a vigorous campaign to block his confirmation. That effort, however, has now failed, thanks in part to the shameless corporate kowtowing of Senators Heitkamp and Manchin.
Manchin had already raised the ire of Democratic progressives by breaking with the party line to confirm notorious racist and benefactor of his daughter’s pharmaceutical company Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. His and Heitkamp’s vote on Pruitt, however, may represent an even more fundamental betrayal of the interests of the American people and indeed the planet, given the hundreds of thousands who will die annually around the world at the hands of climate change. And with the planet so close to the tipping point of irreversibly catastrophic climate change, a single administration’s blatantly anti-environmental policies could have an absolutely disastrous effect on the global climate.
If we are ever to build a truly successful political resistance to Trump and his neo-fascist agenda we must work to bring such renegade Senators in line with the American people. Grassroots organizing, letter-writing campaigns, and, most importantly, progressive primary challengers, are the way to deal with these turncoats.
If you’re outraged that a climate change-denying big oil lobbyist is the head of the EPA, let these traitors know. Call Joe Manchin’s office at 202-224-3954 and Heidi Heitkamp’s at 202-224-2043.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.