Senate should deny Pruitt’s nomination as EPA head

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has made a lengthy career of challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and putting the interests of polluters over the health of its citizens.

He has challenged the EPA in over 14 cases threatening public health safeguards, such as the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule or Waters of the United States rule.

Pruitt has spent his career fighting clean water safeguards, such as in an Oklahoma case during which he defended poultry polluters. Pruitt also opposed a multi-state plan to clean up Chesapeake Bay.

According to the EPA, streams and wetlands have the greatest impact on downstream water quality. Under clean water statutes, 2 million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands would enjoy stronger protection.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers stress that such protection is necessary because about 117 million Americans get their drinking water from sources connected to streams and wetlands.

Why should southern New Hampshire residents care who heads the EPA, you ask?

Contaminated drinking water is found in many communities. As recently as early last year, Amherst joined the list of NH communities with water contamination problems when state officials detected unsafe levels of perfluorochemicals, (PFOA), in private wells around the former Textiles Coated International (TCI) plant. PFOA is the same chemical discovered recently in some private wells in Merrimack and Litchfield near Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack. Eleven water well tests in Amherst showed concentrations of PFOA ranging from non-detect to 620 parts per trillion, four of the eleven well test results were over 100 ppt. For reference purposes.

In May, the EPA issued new lifetime drinking water health advisory levels for both PFOA and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFO) at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Based on the EPA’s updated scientific analysis, the Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) established ambient groundwater quality standards for these chemicals, giving the department the authority to direct site remediation activities and to require public water systems to comply with them.

According to the NHDES 2016 annual report to the Legislature, by June 24, NHDES had tested a total of 836 private wells throughout various parts of the state and found PFOA and PFO levels above the new state standards at 174 of them. Continuing efforts to remediate contaminated wells and protect clean water supplies would not be possible without EPA funding, which constitutes about one-third of NHDES’ annual income over the past four years.

The important role of the EPA in safeguarding our drinking water is undeniable. The American people need an EPA administrator who protects environmental laws, is guided by science in policymaking, puts public health before polluter special interests and has the qualifications necessary to safeguard the American public from toxic pollution and climate change.

Pruitt meets none of those criteria. It’s difficult to imagine a nominee more hostile to the central mission of the EPA or cozier with polluter interests than Mr. Pruitt.

This month, perhaps this week, the U.S. Senate will decide if Pruitt can be trusted to protect our drinking water.

Please call Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, and ask them to reject Pruitt as head of the EPA.

Maureen Reno is an independent consultant in the energy and regulated utilities sector who lives in Derry.