Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Planet In Peril: Senate Republicans Ignore Pruitt Email Controversy

Republicans have confirmed the appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency without a full vetting of his well-known and established ties to the oil and gas industry.

That might seem like old and expected news by now, but Pruitt has just been ordered to release hundreds of emails based on an open records request submitted about two years ago by the Center for Media and Democracy. Pruitt had stonewalled on the request, but now a local judge has ordered him to turn over the information.

Perhaps, it might seem redundant to further establish that Pruitt, as the state’s attorney general, served the interests of the oil and gas industry far more than he worked to ensure the viability and extension of the state’s environmental health.

We already know, for example, that he sent a letter to the EPA during his tenure, arguing it had over estimated the amount of air pollution coming from oil and gas activity. The letter, as we found out, was actually written by staff of Devon Energy, a local Oklahoma City firm.

<pIt’s hard to imagine any deeper type of collusion that that. In addition, by presenting the letter as his own Pruitt committed a clear act of plagiarism, which in other places did cause a huge uproar. The local corporate media here didn’t really care about that aspect of the story.

We already know, too, that oil baron and billionaire Harold Hamm, the founder and chief executive officer of Continental Resources, another Oklahoma City oil and gas firm, served as an honorary chairman for Pruitt’s most recent campaign.

Pruitt’s connection to Hamm is especially telling since the oil mogul has been actively involved as a Republican in politics on the national level. Hamm served as an energy advisor for both presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Hamm obviously promotes his own company’s vested interests in his political work by arguing for less federal environmental regulations of the oil and gas industry when, if fact, there’s a need for much more oversight.

But perhaps the most important aspect of Pruitt’s career as attorney general for Oklahomans is what he didn’t do. Pruitt has done nothing to try to stop the manmade fracking-induced earthquakes that plague our state and damage our property. Normally, attorney generals work on behalf on the state’s citizens to protect them from fraud and unscrupulous and damaging business practices. This wasn’t the case for Pruitt.

So, again, it might be redundant to prove once again Pruitt’s close ties to the oil and gas industry. What’s a few more jaw-dropping revelations about his service as a useful tool for the industry and his lack of concern for the environment or the property of hard-working Oklahomans? We know all that.

Yet Republicans may well have calculated wrongly here. What if the emails eventually reveal—and this is only speculation—some form of deep corruption that will render him unfit to serve as the EPA head? What happens then is yet another Trump-style debacle related to his cabinet picks, advisors and appointees. Of course, at this point in the Trump administration, the daily spectacle is becoming normalized. It would just be business as usual. These, however, are not normal times as we need to keep reminding ourselves.

Making the emails public are vastly important for the historical record. The larger issue, however, is that Pruitt’s appointment will likely set back environmental progress when it comes to climate change and regulations of carbon emissions, which accelerate global warming.

It’s not difficult to argue at this point, no matter what the emails reveal, that Pruitt’s actions as attorney general show that he cares virtually nothing about the environment and will use the EPA to increase the profits of oil and gas companies to the detriment of the planet. That’s what we call here “the Oklahoma standard” now arrived in Washington, D.C.

Will Inhofe, GOP Deny Medical Access To Millions?

Let’s be clear that everyone deserves health care, even those people who voted for President-elect Donald Trump and for Republicans in the House and Senate.

We’re all in this together, whether we’re insured through our employer, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Medicare. All three have a symbiotic relationship with one another. Any adjustment to one of the three affects the other two. So when the Senate passed a bill recently that could lead to the repeal of ACA it created a lot of uncertainty about everyone’s health care in this country, except, of course, for the very rich.

Here’s what Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a right-wing extremist from a right-wing state, had to say about the vote:

Last night’s vote paves a path for the Republican-led Senate to follow through on the promise we made to the American people; we are now set and ready to repeal Obamacare. For the last seven years Americans all across the country have been feeling the devastating effects of this law. And Oklahoma has been among the worst hit. Individuals have lost their health plans and many families have seen their hard-earned dollars come up short when it comes to affording their skyrocketing healthcare premiums and deductibles. Repealing Obamacare will give us the opportunity to make things right again and will allow us to work with the incoming administration to ensure our healthcare system actually works for this country.

Of course, none of Inhofe’s indictments of the ACA are true, and he doesn’t even mention all the millions of people who now have insurance and are happy about it.

Inhofe, who has actually been elected office by winning the vote through the years unlike Trump, wouldn’t even dare to mention how the Congressional Budget Office has stated that if the ACA does get repealed with no replacement 18 million people will immediately lose their health insurance and then the number would grow incrementally through the years.

Inhofe hasn’t offered up a real plan to replace so-called Obamacare either nor has any leading Republican done so lately. The issues remain the same as when the ACA was first established, and the only sensible and best financial answer is to go to some type of single-payer system, as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders suggests, but that seems impossible with Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

Trump has vaguely said that under some plan that some people are supposedly forming “everybody” will have health insurance. Who knows what’s going to happen? Trump unpredictability is the only predictable thing about him.

Here’s a certainty: It does no good to spend one second thinking that people who voted for Trump deserve to lose their health insurance. First, many people didn’t think and still don’t think it will happen. Maybe it won’t, but that seems unlikely. Second, if the ACA is repealed with no replacement, then that means everyone’s insurance rate will go up because sick people will flood emergency rooms again for treatment and care as a last resort so, well, so they don’t die, and the people with insurance will have to pay for it through increased premiums.

The Senate also voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which serves at-risk women for a variety of health reasons, a development in which The Oklahoman editorial board took great delight.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a shill for the oil and gas industry, gets vetted to head the Environmental Protection Agency this week, and Oklahoma’s Toby Keith is one of the few well-known musicians who will performed at Trump’s inauguration.

Great times, at least for now, for some Oklahomans, but then it’s going to get real.