At a time when the country is threatened by the severe effects of climate change, including record-breaking droughts, floods, extreme hot and cold temperatures as well as increased severe weather phenomena, we need a strong leader at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who will take the warranted aggressive action to pursue policies that will protect our country’s health and environmental future.
Since its establishment by President Nixon in the 1970s, the EPA has been critical to enforcing standards that ensure clean air, water, and land for our families. Latinos in particular are especially concerned about environmental issues and their impact on the public health of their communities.
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA does nothing to alleviate these concerns. With a reckless history of obstructing environmental protections and his ludicrous doubts to the validity of climate science, Pruitt’s nomination to lead the EPA is not only careless, but is dangerous to the public health of all Americans.
Pruitt has built his career on opposing EPA measures. As the Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt has sued the EPA multiple times to dispute the legality of measures that limit pollutants that poison our air, water, and soil. In addition, Pruitt has consistently opposed any limitations on oil, gas, and methane drilling.
This is specifically troubling to Latino communities.
According to a report released by LULAC and other partner organizations, approximately 1.78 million Latinos live in counties with cancer risks above the EPA’s minimum threshold of safety, which is directly tied to oil and gas pollution. Respiratory illness like asthma are increasingly more likely to surface in these areas, and according to the same report, asthma-related illnesses result in approximately 110,000 missed school days by Latino children.
These facts underscore the disproportionate impact that climate change is having on Latino communities and the community’s sense of urgency to have a strong leader at the EPA who will pursue an environmental justice agenda. Enforcing strong environmental protections is critical to safeguarding the public health of our communities, and an EPA run by Pruitt will only safeguard the profit margins of polluters.
With regard to climate change, Pruitt has been a vocal skeptic. When asked about the contributions of human activity to climate change (a view supported by the vast majority of climate research), Pruitt answered that the debate was ‘far from settled.’ Unfortunately, for the Latino community, many cannot afford to wait for Mr. Pruitt to get up to speed with science. Approximately 55 percent of Latinos live in Florida, California, and Texas; three states already experiencing the negative effects of climate change. Heat waves, more days with risky smog levels, and frequent flooding are wreaking havoc on the lives of Latinos, and we will continue to see more episodes like this if the EPA is inhibited by a leader who obstructs climate change policy.
According to a recent poll by Latino Decisions, 72 percent of Latinos in key states stated that it was important for Congress and the President to take action on climate change. Latino communities across the country are seeing the impact of climate change and pollution on their communities and are relying on the EPA to take action. Latinos cannot afford an EPA Administrator who will put the interest of polluters and big business over the interests and health of our communities. In order to ensure environmental justice for Latinos, the U.S. Senate must oppose the nomination of Pruitt and only confirm someone who has the experience, knowledge and determination to act on climate change and safeguard the public health of our communities.