EPA head Scott Pruitt didn’t show up for a speech in Kentucky, but 175 protesters did

Even when Pruitt is a no-show, his policies inspire protest.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ahead of Pruitt’s Senate confirmation hearing, expected later this month. CREDIT: AP Photo/Zach Gibson
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ahead of Pruitt’s Senate confirmation hearing, expected later this month. CREDIT: AP Photo/Zach Gibson

Even when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt isn’t there, people still feel inspired to protest his pattern of climate-denial and industry favoritism. About 175 people demonstrated against regulatory rollback Wednesday in Kentucky, despite Pruitt’s canceling a scheduled speech at the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers conference in Lexington.

“It hurts us all,” Hank Graddy, a member of the Sierra Club’s Kentucky chapter, told the Herald Leader about the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the EPA. “In Kentucky, we don’t want EPA to lead us backwards.”

When asked to respond to the protest in Lexington on Wednesday, Pruitt’s spokesperson told the Herald Leader that Pruitt “proudly supports President Trump’s vision to protect our air, water and American jobs.”

The same day that the protest in Lexington took place, news broke that the Trump administration would reportedly make good on President Trump’s campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Pruitt has been a leading force within the administration calling for withdrawal, calling the agreement a “bad deal” and incorrectly arguing that big polluters like India and China “got away scot-free.” In reality, part of what made the reaching the agreement possible was a 2014 bilateral climate agreement forged between the United States and China, in which China pledged to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030.

Pruitt has also flatly rejected the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change multiple times since becoming EPA administrator, saying in an interview to CNBC that carbon emissions are not a primary contributor to global warming. That view goes against 97 percent of actively-publishing climate scientists, who agree that greenhouse gas emissions released by human activities like power generation or transportation are the primary cause of global warming. In response to Pruitt’s record of scientific denial, a group of scientists recently published a study aimed at debunking the EPA administrator’s mischaracterization of climate science.

Wednesday’s cancellation is not the first time that Pruitt has dodged a public appearance since becoming EPA administrator. Pruitt cancelled a scheduled public appearance on May 18 with the Hoover Institute in Washington, D.C., citing a “scheduling conflict.”

As the New Republic’s Emily Atkin points out, Pruitt has created a rather opaque ethos since joining the EPA. He has yet to release a public copy of his schedule, and he rarely speaks with the media, unless it is interviews with fossil fuel and industry-friendly outlets like conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt or the media arm of the Heritage Foundation.

Pruitt’s evasiveness continues a pattern that dates back to his time as Oklahoma Attorney General, when his office routinely tried to prevent public interest groups from obtaining information, including correspondence between his office and fossil fuel interest groups. Pruitt also failed to provide requested information to a group of Democratic senators interested in learning more about his role with the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a nonprofit that has received at least $175,000 from the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers’ super PAC.