By Natalia Castro
Scott Pruitt is on the road to a successful nomination. Thursday the Senate pushed Pruitt one step closer to his position as Administrator to the Environmental Protection Agency, putting Pruitt in the right place to end the disastrous war on coal that has costs the jobs of millions of Americans. His support proves to struggling voters that Senators are listening to their plight.
Ever since his time as Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt has fought the EPA at every turn throughout the country. Pruitt joined 11 other Republican Attorneys General in 2013 to fight against the sue and settle lawsuits of the EPA which provided the agency with wide latitude over the enforcement of environmental law, where environmental groups sue the EPA and to avoid further litigation, the parties settle the suit and the EPA is given permission to address the issue with newly expanded powers.
There will also be an opportunity for the EPA to reconsider the 2009 Carbon Endangerment Finding, defining carbon dioxide as a harmful pollutant under the Clean Air Act, which has been used to justify the continual implementation of regulations that expand the agency’s power and wage a war on coal via the new and existing power plant rules.
The EPA has successfully forced states to regulate the coal industry as an extension of the Clean Air Act, and given itself far more oversight than ever intended.
This assault on coal has placed burdens on the economy that Pruitt has consistently seen as both unattainable and unnecessary, arguing in 2014 in response to a new EPA regulation on emission controls that “The EPA can’t force utility companies to actually incorporate emission control measures unless they’re achievable through technology. And here, there really isn’t any demonstrated technology that will see a reduction of 30 percent… this is coerced conservation.”
Pruitt’s constant defense against this coercion by the agency built by the Obama Administration allowed all 52 Senate Republicans to back him Thursday morning as his confirmation process moved forward. However, Republicans were not alone in their favor for Pruitt.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp both voted in support of Scott Pruitt as well, and this vote could be what saves them in 2018 as Democrats defend a whopping 25 Senate seats. Even Democrats are starting to learn that the war on coal is hurting the jobs of their constituents and polluting the economies of their states.
The Washington Post reported in Dec. 2016 that West Virginians were “euphoric” and “thrilled” by Trump’s win noting that “Before the price of coal collapsed, before the number of working miners in the state fell to a 100-year low of 15,000, miners could make $60,000, even $75,000 a year, without a high school education. Walmart money doesn’t come close.”
In states with a strong mining industry, a senator’s vote for Pruitt is a vote to return economic possibility and the American dream to thousands of workers.
Even Heidi Heitkamp has been consistently willing to oppose her Democratic establishment when it comes to assisting her constituents in getting back to work. In 2015 Heitkamp argued “EPA’s over-reaching policy won’t work for North Dakota. We now have EPA in the driver’s seat dictating how we generate and transmit electricity, and that’s a dangerous road to go down.”
Constituents in states like North Dakota and West Virginia were integral in developing a support base for Trump that Democrats willfully ignored. Heitkamp and Manchin have proved that they are listening to their people, other Democrats would be wise to do the same.
The rust belt was integral to Trump’s election in part because of their reliance on coal; for states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Indiana, three of which Trump won, Trump was the easy decision to get the people back to work and make the economy stable once again. Yet all four of these states have Democrats in office, all up in 2018 as well, who voted against Pruitt: Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Mark Warner and Joe Donnelly.
In a statement, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning blasted these senators as “those politicians who voted against the Pruitt nomination told the workers in their states they prefer San Francisco radical environmentalist campaign cash over the votes and livelihoods of their constituents.”
Clearly, Heitkamp and Manchin are focused on creating jobs for their constituents and retaining their position in 2018, and proof was their vote for Pruitt. Brown, Casey, Warner and Donnelly, not so much.
President Obama led the war on coal, and now Scott Pruitt is about to end it as EPA Administrator. The work he has done in Oklahoma sets the stage for ending EPA overreach and in doing so, he can force other Democrats in the Senate to actually start listening to their constituents — or else face the music in 2018.
Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.