PNS Daily Newscast - June 2, 2020 

President Trump berates governors as 'weak' amid growing racial unrest; an interfaith group sees a link between protests and climate change.

2020Talks - June 2, 2020 

Eight states plus Washington DC have primaries today, even as cities determine how to move forward in the wake of massive protests nationwide; President Trump says he'll deploy active US troops to quell them.

NWF: Smoky Mountains at Risk if Trump's EPA Pick Approved

Conservationists say the views of the Smoky Mountains provide a "looking glass" into how far we've come in improving air quality. (Jim Brekke/
Conservationists say the views of the Smoky Mountains provide a "looking glass" into how far we've come in improving air quality. (Jim Brekke/
January 30, 2017

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. -- Scientists blame global warming for the drought conditions that caused the Smoky Mountain wildfires to spread in November, and now several groups are concerned that President Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency could reverse policies that have brought about progress in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Stephanie Kodish, senior director and counsel with the National Parks Conservation Association, explained why the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is so concerning to her organization.

"Right here at home in Tennessee, we just experienced the horrible effects of climate change in our community and to the park,” Kodish said. "We can't have someone at the helm of the EPA that is still questioning what we've just experienced."

During his tenure as Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt relaxed restrictions for companies on air pollution and sued the EPA several times - including once to fight against the EPA's "good neighbor rule" that reduced the hazardous soot and smog pollution crossing state lines.

This week the National Wildlife Federation spoke out in opposition to Pruitt. It's the first time in its 80 year history that the bipartisan group has taken such a stance.

Colin O’Mara, president and CEO of the Federation, explained why the nonprofit is taking a stand.

"For the first time, we are opposing a nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency - or for any agency, for that matter,” O’Mara said, "because the nominee is not supporting sound science and not believing in the mission of the organization and having a history of doing nothing but suing and fighting against clean air and clean water."

Late Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker, a Republican, is credited with passing the landmark Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. But environmentalists say Pruitt's policies now threaten the progress made over the last 47 years.

Kodish said the views of the Smokies are an indicator of how far we've come.

"The Smokies provide such a wonderful looking glass to see the successes of great laws like the Clean Air Act,” she said. "You take a look at the views of the Smokies in the 1990s, they were limited to nine miles. Now because of a suite of emission reductions, you can see 35 miles out."

Tennessee's water quality also could be at risk. Water supports a wildlife recreation industry valued at almost $3 billion annually, as well as the state's growing craft-beer industry, which contributes almost $500 million to the economy.

Stephanie Carson/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - TN