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Scott Pruitt Has Literally Made Washington – and America – More Toxic

Commentary
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Mired in multiple scandals of his own making, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt attempted to shift the blame to “toxic” Washington yesterday.

Irony, thy name is Scott Pruitt.

The fact is, no EPA administrator in history has done as much to weaken public health protections from toxic chemicals.

While Pruitt’s sweetheart lease and corrupt use of taxpayer funds are reason enough to demand his resignation, it’s his pay-to-play efforts on behalf of chemical and pesticide companies that should alarm every American.

Chemical and pesticide companies who donated to President Trump’s campaign and Republicans in Congress have certainly gotten their money’s worth. Pruitt has reversed or indefinitely postponed chemical bans, rubber-stamped new chemicals, cooked the books when assessing older chemicals, postponed chemical safety rules to protect farm and factory workers, and appointed chemical safety officials who have spent decades defending chemicals for polluters.

Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA has:

  1. Reversed chemical bans. Pruitt reversed a proposed ban of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that can permanently harm kids’ brains, not long after receiving a $1 million donation from the CEO of Dow Chemical, its manufacturer. Pruitt also indefinitely delayed proposed bans on methylene chloride, a toxic chemical in paint strippers that has killed at least 50 people in recent decades, and TCE, a known carcinogen that poses special risks to pregnant women. He also postponed a decision on whether to ban NMP, a developmental toxin used in paint and coating strippers.
  2. Rubber-stamped new, untested chemicals. At the request of chemical companies, Pruitt has allowed dozens of new chemicals into commerce without adequate safety reviews, violating the nation’s new chemical safety law. What’s more, he has decided to hide any concerns EPA scientists might have with new chemicals from the public.
  3. Cooked the books. Under pressure from the chemical industry, Pruitt violated the new chemical safety law by using junk science to review old chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems. For example, Pruitt’s EPA has excluded many uses from the agency’s review of cancer-causing substances like asbestos and 1,4-dioxane, and changed agency rules to give less weight to the unique impacts of toxic chemicals on children and other vulnerable groups.
  4. Undermined worker safety. Pruitt delayed a rule designed to prevent catastrophic accidents at chemical manufacturing plants until at least 2019. Just months after Pruitt’s decision, flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused an explosion at a Texas chemical plant. Pruitt also delayed implementation of new protections from toxic pesticides for farmworkers, and recently announced plans to revise – read: weaken – farmworker safety standards in 2018.
  5. Put industry lobbyists and lawyers in charge. Pruitt’s nominees and appointees to oversee chemical safety include a long-time chemical industry lobbyist. He’s also purged the EPA’s science advisory panels of contrary voices, and put his personal banker – who has been banned from banking for life – in charge of Superfund cleanups.
  6. Cut funding for the EPA. Pruitt’s budgets have proposed deep cuts to the EPA, undermining the agency’s efforts to review the safety of chemicals in consumer products.
  7. Hidden chemical risks. As EWG has documented again and again, the chemical industry has abused so-called trade secret claims to keep safety information from the public. Now, in violation of the new chemical safety law, Pruitt is again proposing to let industry hide risks about chemicals and their uses.
  8. Ignored pesticide risks. Contradicting international experts, Pruitt’s EPA has claimed the pesticide glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer, granted "emergency” approvals of toxic pesticides and delayed a review of the impacts of three organophosphate pesticides on endangered species.

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Photo courtesy of AP Photos

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