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Bill Straub: ‘Possum’ Pruitt is a money-changer in the Temple; why oh why can’t he just be tossed out?

Should those suffering from asthma find breathing more difficult because the air has turned gray, if the water we all drink assumes the characteristics of that found in Flint, MI, if the soil suddenly begins leaching toxins, please don’t blame Scott “Possum’’ Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, whose policies, one might think, are having an adverse impact on this tiny planet we call home.

Blame God.

That’s right. Not just any, old deity either. The one that gets worshipped on Sundays in churches across the land of opportunity by many, and on Christmas and Easter by others. He’s the guy whispering in Pruitt’s ear, instructing him to exploit the nation’s abundant natural resources for one and all despite, apparently, the environmental costs.

That’s why Possum – a handle attached to him during his days with the University of Kentucky baseball team – is on his merry way toward demolishing many of the environmental protections established over the past several years that have succeeded in making the good, ol’ US of A a cleaner and safer place.

It all becomes clear in articles posted by both National Public Radio and Mother Jones magazine that indicate Pruitt fears he will be violating the clear instructions of the Almighty if he fails to produce one more lump of coal, one more oil rig or one more belching smokestack.

Wikipedia photo by Gage Skidmore

During a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Possum made it quite clear what he considers his holy mandate — God commands us to use that which has been provided.

“The biblical worldview with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,’’ Possum said.

His notions have attracted support from evangelical leaders. When Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA drew criticism from environmentalists who noted that he wasn’t exactly sympathetic to the agency’s objectives, especially his expressed doubts about the impact of humans on global climate change, a group of 48 evangelical leaders, many associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, composed and signed a letter in his behalf, proclaiming “the Hon. Scott Pruitt is well qualified to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and that he deserves the full support of the United States Senate in his confirmation.’’

Citing Psalm 24:1, “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,’’ the signatories expressed belief that “our Christian responsibility is to bear witness to the truth that God created the cosmos for His own glory and that He created human beings in His own image, bearing responsibility to advance human flourishing through many forms of human activity, from agriculture and enterprise to technology and innovation.’’

While giving a nod toward the quest for a clean environment, the signatories held that “we reject any ideology that sees human beings as a blight upon the planet and would harm human flourishing by restricting or preventing the rightful use and enjoyment of creation.’’

On climate change, the letter writers held that Possum had been “misrepresented’’ as denying settled science “when he has actually called for a continuing debate. This is in the very best tradition of science.’’

Pruitt’s desire to exploit natural resources with little heed to environmental costs is something he carried with him from the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow in Oklahoma, where he settled after graduating from Lexington Lafayette High School and Georgetown College, eventually becoming the Sooner State’s attorney general before assuming the EPA job.

Doing the commonwealth proud!

Nick Garland, the church’s senior pastor who maintains a close relationship with Pruitt, told Mother Jones that, “Either we’re going to steward the Earth and use it for God’s glory and man’s good, or we serve the Earth.’’ Failing to use the earth, he said, violates Genesis 2:15, which concerns the relationship between humans and the natural world: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

The problem with all this rigmarole is that the U.S. can reach the deity’s admonition to serve as the earth’s caretaker without despoiling the land we live on. Renewable resources like solar energy, wind turbines, and hydroelectric generators can go a long way toward providing the nation’s power needs, along with natural gas, without sending lethal levels of carbon dioxide, mercury and other nasty components created by burning coal into the atmosphere. Electric cars have a niche in the transportation industry. And there are a growing number of alternatives to the fertilizers that run off into the nation’s streams.

But Possum isn’t enamored with those alternatives that, apparently, provide little financial support for his political endeavors. Instead, he is declaring victory in what has been inanely defined as the War on Coal and supporting oil rigs wherever one can be sited.

Pruitt, rather than take advantage of clean energy alternatives, is pulverizing every progressive measure initiated by the detested former President Barack Obama. Possum is in the process of dismantling the landmark Clean Power Plan, which imposed greenhouse gas production limits on coal-fired power plants. He has, as Mother Jones noted, slashed enforcement efforts against polluters and tried to repeal rules meant to safeguard drinking-water supplies.

In early April, in a sop to both the oil and automobile industries, Possum declared his intention to roll back the Obama administration’s 50 miles per gallon corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) targets for 2022 through 2025. Pruitt has further taken steps to weaken regulations regarding smog, coal ash, and mercury pollution.

Under Pruitt’s direction, the agency has essentially ignored a toxic-chemical law and refused to ban a pesticide known as chlorpyrifos, which overstimulates the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion and respiratory paralysis and death at very high exposures. Dozens of other rules are falling before Possum’s ax, most of them dealing with public safety and health.

And one must wonder what ethical lessons Pruitt has absorbed from the testaments. His exploits playing fast and loose with the public’s dollar are becoming the stuff of legend – first-class travel, round-the-clock security detail, a $43,000 secure phone in his office, a four-day, $100,000 trip to Morocco, of all places, arranged by a lobbyist pal who subsequently signed a $40,000 per month contract with the Rabat government to promote the nation’s interests, the hiring of an inexperienced ex-banker friend who loaned him money.

And the list goes on.

Jesus threw the money changers out of the Temple.

Can’t he toss Possum out of the EPA?

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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