Scott Pruitt has it backward

This Sunday, we will celebrate the forty-eighth Earth Day. Over the past 48 years, we have made incredible progress from the days when rivers would spontaneously catch on fire, polluters were allowed to spew dangerous arsenic, sulfur and mercury into the air and dump toxic waste into our waterways without consequence, thick smog enveloped our communities and garbage littered our shores. But there’s still work to be done. 

Today, pollution in our water still threatens towns like Blades, and air pollution emitted by cars, trucks and power plants hundreds of miles away still causes New Castle County to earn an ‘F’ on the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report, despite all of Delaware’s efforts. These same pollutants in our atmosphere continue to cause sea levels to rise and storms to increase in strength and frequency as we see the effects of climate change hit our coastal state. The environmental challenges we face are real, and instead of being content with the progress we have made, we have a moral obligation to continue to fight for a better and healthier planet for Delawareans and all Americans.

Unfortunately, on this Earth Day, we have an administration that is intent on halting our clean air and clean water progress and moving us backward. In fact, for the past 15 months, President Trump and his administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, have been actively undermining some of the fundamental clean air and clean water protections that we’ve relied on for nearly 50 years.

This month alone, Administrator Pruitt has rolled back auto emissions standards designed to make our cars cleaner and more efficient, weakened the National Ambient Air Quality Standards that protect downwind states like Delaware from pollution created in other states, and signaled his desire to undo Clean Water Act protections that for nearly 50 years have helped downstream states like Delaware hold upstream polluters accountable for fouling our water. Delaware, sitting downwind and downstream from states like Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Indiana, is bound to suffer from Mr. Pruitt’s backward, dangerous policies.

Last week, I joined with Democratic colleagues on the Senate floor to debate the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler to serve as Mr. Pruitt’s Deputy Administrator at EPA. For more than eight hours, we held the Senate floor to call attention to Administrator Pruitt’s harmful policies, but also his shameful actions while serving at EPA. Over the past few weeks, we have barely gone one day without learning new and increasingly troubling information about Mr. Pruitt’s abuse of power and self-serving actions to enrich himself and those around him. Before the Senate approved Mr. Wheeler to serve as Administrator Pruitt’s deputy, we should have done our constitutional duty and performed oversight on Mr. Pruitt’s actions.

Administrator Pruitt’s continued poor judgement shows he has it backward when it comes to public service – seeking to be served by the American people and taxpayer dollars, instead of serving others. That’s why, earlier this week I joined 169 members of Congress in calling for his immediate resignation from EPA. But he also has it backward when it comes to environmental protection.

Through hard work, we have made progress cleaning up our air and water and making this country a safer, cleaner place. Instead of using this progress as an excuse to undo protections that have proven effective, we must continue fighting so towns like Blades don’t have to experience water crises and New Castle County can have relief from other states’ pollution. On the 48th celebration of Earth Day, instead of allowing ourselves to move backward, we should look back at how far we have come, and recommit ourselves to continue fighting to protect the only home we have.