With so much news generated from the White House in the last few weeks, it's been hard to stay focused on the Administration's incoming Cabinet appointments. But these nominees will have tremendous influence over many aspects of our lives in the years to come, and it's important we ensure they are committed to improving the quality of life of all Americans. This is why it's so important that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Scott Pruitt's shockingly anti-environment statements and record are not ignored. And that we all do everything within our power to reject Mr. Pruitt's nomination to head the EPA.
EPA's mission of protecting our health, including promoting clean air and clean water, is particularly important for Hispanic Americans, as many of us are at heightened risk from pollution and degradation because of where we live and work. Today, 24 million Latinos live in country's top 15 cities for smog pollution. Latinos are also overrepresented in outdoor jobs in industries like construction and agriculture, which place us on the front lines of air pollution and extreme weather.
Like all Americans, as Latinos, we care about our families, their health, and the health of our communities. We expect the Administrator of the EPA to also care about us, and to align with these values. Scott Pruitt, however, has built his professional career suing EPA to block or rollback measures that protect Americans from harmful pollution, and its negative health effects.
As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt continually filed lawsuits to block measures aimed at reducing pollution and boosting the development of the nation's clean energy economy. He has filed more than a dozen such lawsuits, but in his Senate Committee hearing in January, he couldn't point to a single action taken to defend the environment.
As if this alone were not evidence that Pruitt is hostile to the mission of environmental protection at the heart of the agency, and indifferent to the people whose health is impacted by that environment, Pruitt actually shut down the environmental enforcement unit in his Oklahoma office. A Pruitt confirmation would also create serious conflict of interest issues because he has not committed to recuse himself from any of the pending lawsuits he has filed against EPA should he be confirmed as the agency's administrator.
Beyond the serious damage that a Pruitt confirmation would do to our environment, we also need to look at the negative impact he would have on our economy. At a time when jobs in the solar industry are growing more than 10 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy, an EPA that supports polluters above the American people reduces the opportunities these jobs present in all 50 states. But Pruitt's nomination suggests that the Trump Administration is woefully out of touch with the potential of a clean energy economy to both boost our economy and protect our health.
These days it seems awfully hard to point to many things all Americans have in common, but survey after survey shows that clean drinking water, unpolluted air, good jobs, and choices for where we get our energy matter a great deal to the overwhelming majority of us. After all, no one voted for more dirty water for our families to drink. Or for more air pollution for our children to breathe. So, it's clear that our present nominee for EPA Administrator does not reflect our values, and it's our obligation to fight for an administrator who does.
Our lives rest on the bedrock of a safe, clean environment. There are many ways to raise your voice: by phone, by letter, by email, or by Tweet. The fact is that Florida is one of the states most threatened by climate change and rising sea levels, and other environmental hazards. We just can't afford to be silent because simply we can't afford four years of damage to the environment and, consequently, to our health and our economy.
José Calderon is the Executive Director of the Hispanic Federation.
This piece was originally published in The Hill.