OpEd – “The better angels of our nature” … why Pruitt is wrong for EPA

daniel headshotOpEd by PA IPL board president, Rabbi Daniel Swartz, published in the Scranton Times-Tribune on January 10, 2017.

It’s a basic animal instinct to protect self-interests — your food sources, your life and your offspring. Especially at this time of year, we aspire not to mere base instinct, but rather to the “better angels of our nature” that President Abraham Lincoln spoke about. It’s a common theme of most religions: the moral course of action is to go beyond ourselves to protect those in need.

What is true for us as individuals is also true for societies and countries. A great and moral nation doesn’t just protect self-interests. It builds systems and institutions that protect the weak, the vulnerable and the powerless. One such institution in our country is the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA protects our health, especially of the poor, who suffer first and most from the effects of environmental degradation.

So it is profoundly distressing to look at the record of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice to head the EPA. Mr. Pruitt has taken every opportunity to sue the EPA to stop the agency from acting to protect public health and natural resources.

For example, he sued unsuccessfully to stop standards for reducing soot and smog pollution that crosses state lines, pollution that increases asthma, lung disease and even reduces life spans, particularly among the very young and seniors.

Worse, he sued, also without success, to head off rules to reduce releases of mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other toxic pollutants. Even tiny amounts of mercury can cause birth defects and permanent brain damage. In these and other cases, Mr. Pruitt ignored the scientific evidence, backed by health experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, and the American Public Health Association. He supported the positions of fossil fuel companies.

Mr. Pruitt’s opposition to health and safety protections could have particularly serious repercussions for Pennsylvanians, including the 300,000 children who suffer from asthma and the many older Pennsylvanians who suffer from respiratory conditions. According to the American Lung Association, Pennsylvania already pays $9.4 billion in pollution-related health care costs each year. A Pruitt-run EPA also could abandon clean water safeguards protecting thousands of miles of Pennsylvania streams, which are sources of drinking water, fishing, and recreation.

Mr. Pruitt has demonstrated an … –-> continue reading at the Scranton Times-Tribune –>


Download Rabbi Daniel Swartz’ text study of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Sî, including 1- or 2- session discussion options, and excerpts from Laudato Si with facing-page Jewish texts (scripture to present).  Written for Yom Kippur study, but appropriate for study by people of any faith, at any time of the year.