Scott Pruitt’s Top Five Fibs on Obama’s Climate Action Efforts

As Trump prepares to issue a memorandum spelling out an agenda favoring coal and other fossil fuels, the EPA chief has been test-driving some questionable judgments.

Credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

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Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has for weeks been developing his arguments for the Trump Administration’s climate-policy rollback. There will be more to come with the release on Tuesday of a long-promised executive order from the White House aimed at undermining Obama-era action on climate change.

Pruitt’s recent denial of mainstream climate science was not his only false note. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, he made several pronouncements that don’t stand up well to scrutiny.

Here are five of them:

“Over the last several years, we have accepted a narrative that if you’re pro-growth, pro-jobs, you’re anti-environment; if you’re pro-environment, you’re anti-jobs or anti-growth.”

It’s not clear where Pruitt has been hearing this narrative. Not from former President Barack Obama. Nor from John Kerry or Ernest Moniz or Gina McCarthy. The four, like Democrats and Republicans alike in recent decades, have gone on endlessly about how this is a false choice.

“We need to be more independent, less reliant, upon foreign energy sources.”

There has been a steady increase in U.S. energy independence over several years, as repeatedly described in official government data.

In the next breath, Pruitt cited the importance of the newly approved Keystone XL pipeline. That project would mainly carry foreign oil, from Canada’s tar sands. And the Obama administration, along with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, cut a deal more than a year ago to open up crude oil exports, given the supply glut that has held prices low.

The U.S., meanwhile, became a net exporter of natural gas last year, and has always had plenty of coal.

“What was wrong with Paris was not just that it was, you know, failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India got away, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free. They didn’t have to take steps until 2030.”

Putting China and India under a binding, universal international treaty with concrete goals to reduce their carbon was perhaps the most notable achievement of the Paris Agreement, long sought by critics of the United Nations’ climate talks. Already, China and India are shifting gears and their clean-energy transitions are accelerating. It’s the United States, No. 2  between first-place China and distant third-place India among the largest emitters, that appears to be slamming on the brakes.

“When you take coal generation facilities, natural gas facilities, and you put them aside and focus only on certain types of ways to generate electricity, it’s causing double-digit increases across the country as it relates to consumers.”

Pruitt doesn’t say the words “wind” or “solar.” Both are booming, and their falling costs are widely expected to undercut fossil fuel’s dominant position in generating the nation’s electricity in the years ahead. Meanwhile, the country is becoming more efficient in how it uses electricity, saving people money as consumption falls.

In no section of the country have electric rates recently been going up at a double-digit pace.

“This Clean Power Plan is something that the Supreme Court, as you know, has said is likely unlawful, and so there’s been a stay against this Clean Power Plan.”

When the Supreme Court issued its stay of the Clean Power Plan a little over a year ago, it offered no elaboration of its unprecedented intervention in the fraught case. As of March 27, an appeals court still hadn’t issued its judgment. And one of the justices in the 5-4 ruling, Antonin Scalia, has since died.

Pruitt’s shorthand abbreviation of the murky situation is not entirely unfounded. One classic threshold for issuing a stay is whether the applicant made “a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits.” But the justices would have weighed other factors, too, such as how much they thought the industry was being damaged by the EPA rule. The court’s exercise of this discretion can be a delicate balancing act. And any mind-reading of the justices in the months ahead should be taken with a grain of salt.