By Stephanie R. Ostrowski, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM
Most of the farmers I have known—especially graziers (farmers who raise livestock on pastures), row-crop farmers, and foresters—are among the nation’s premier conservationists and champions of the environment. When you make a living working the same land as your father and grandfather, a fundamental truth of your existence is that you depend on access to clean water, clean air, rich soil, and a non-degraded ecosystem for your livelihood.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has played a pivotal rule in carrying out key parts of President Obama’s agenda, especially with fighting climate change and implementing the nation’s switch to sustainable clean energy sources (solar and wind), thereby reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and meeting our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol international treaty. Thousands of windfarms and solar panel installations are now generating long-term income for family farmers and have created tens of thousands of long-term skilled infrastructure jobs installing and maintaining them.
In this context, the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt constitutes “a full-fledged environmental emergency,” according to Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, who pledged to make the issue a litmus test for every senator who has said they do not deny the science of climate change. “This is a four-alarm fire, and we are going to do everything we can to stop his nomination,” he said.
Democrats and conservation groups are preparing to battle President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Pruitt as leader of the Environmental Protection Agency because of his record as a staunch oil industry ally, climate-change denier, and chief foe of the Obama administration’s climate agenda. Several senators immediately said they would oppose his nomination, including Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who called Pruitt “unsuitable to lead the EPA” because of his history “carrying water for Big Oil.”
Pruitt’s record of opposition to the EPA’s mission could hardly be more clear—he is currently battling a suite of the agency’s rules in court, including a regulation slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a water pollution measure, and the agency’s conclusion that carbon dioxide is a pollutant endangering public health and welfare.