Scott Pruitt: Industry over the environment

In a New York Times article titled, “Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Backed Industry Donors Over Regulators,” authors Eric Lipton and Coral Davenport sought out to explain the actions that Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed head of the EPA, made while he was the Attorney General of Oklahoma. In addition, Lipton and Davenport went a step further by predicting how Pruitt would handle his new post based on the actions stated earlier in the article. Pruitt is known for his denial of climate change and legal pursuits with the EPA in the past, so it will be interesting to see where he takes one of the most relevant government agencies in present time.

In this article, authors Eric Lipton and Coral Davenport start off by criticizing the way Scott Pruitt sided with companies rather than fighting for reparations for supposed damage to the environment. Instead of pushing for a federal judge to punish the companies by extracting tens of millions of dollars in damages, Pruitt “quietly negotiated a deal to simply study the problem further.” Lipton and Davenport follow up this claim by stating that the deal came after Pruitt had taken “tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from executives and lawyers for the poultry industry.” This is an appeal to both pathos and ethos because Lipton and Davenport use facts to evoke the emotion of anger and newfound awareness in the reader. Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma’s chief law enforcement officer was overwhelmingly characterized by his cooperation with industry and his antipathy to federal regulation. Overall, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times during his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Mark Derichsweiler, leader of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality division responsible for overseeing the poultry-related cleanup, retired after 40 years with the state due to frustrations over Pruitt’s approach. Derichsweiler stated that, “he [Pruitt] has advocated and stood up for the profits of business, be it the poultry companies or the energy industry and other polluters, at the expense of people who have to drink the water or breathe the air.” On the opposite side of the argument, Pruitt’s supporters contend that he “demonstrates a deeply held philosophy that states understand their needs best and should be allowed to regulate their own environment.” They are firm in their stance that Pruitt opposes excessive federal regulation, not clean air and water.

While this article does not reference race or gender, it does reference both class and political beliefs. Class is mentioned when referencing Pruitt’s cooperation with industries rather than fighting for cleaner living for the lower to middle class citizens of Oklahoma. Moreover, political beliefs are mentioned when Lipton and Davenport state that, “Pruitt is set to embrace a more collaborative approach with the industries that the EPA is charged with policing,” many of which have helped him advance his political career. In addition to serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt served as a leader of the Republican Attorneys General Association. This association, RAGA for short, has collected $4.2 million from fossil-fuel related companies including Exxon Mobil. By stating this, Lipton and Davenport are appealing to logos by presenting clear data that is supported by the controversial beliefs of Mr. Pruitt regarding climate change and environmental regulation.

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By taking a clear stance against the appointment of Pruitt, the authors of this article leave themselves susceptible to criticism with concern to the fallacies presented throughout the article. For example, the coalition of 23 powerful groups that endorsed Pruitt’s nomination is cited in the article, stating that “some claim Mr. Pruitt opposes clean air and water. This could not be further from the truth.” This statement is an example of the unqualified authority fallacy because the groups are biased and have an incentive to lie. For example, the American Energy Alliance is a known supporter of the Keystone XL Pipeline and has opposed clean energy laws in the past, such as the Waxman-Markey Bill in 2009. This group has a bias because they would benefit from the appointment of Pruitt, who would enforce much more lenient energy laws. The incentive that the group has to lie is both economic and political.

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While President Trump has not tweeted much about the environment or the EPA since his inauguration, former presidential candidate and independent senator Bernie Sanders has tweeted adamantly about both issues on several occasions. In a series of tweets on February 16th, 2017, the day before Pruitt’s scheduled confirmation hearing, Senator Sanders started off by tweeting, “Trump picked the worst group of cabinet nominees in the modern history of America. But EPA nominee Scott Pruitt is the worst of the worst.” This tweet appeals to pathos because it attempts to convince the reader that Scott Pruitt is the worst of the worst, which will be something that Americans will have to deal with in the near future. However, Senator Sanders has a bias against both Trump and Pruitt based on his beliefs and political affiliation. While Sanders truly believes what he is saying, there are a fair amount of people out there that believe the exact opposite. Senator Sanders followed up this tweet with another that read, “for the sake of our children, grandchildren and the future of this planet Mr. Pruitt must not be confirmed as head of the EPA.” This is once again an appeal to pathos because Sanders evokes the emotion of fear in parents and future parents all across the nation by stated the imminent threat to future generations being imposed by people like Scott Pruitt. This could also be seen as an appeal to logos because scientific research has proven the existence of global warming, which will continue to affect generations to come if completely ignored.

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