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Pruitt Opponents Continue Fight Ahead of Vote

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017   

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The U.S. Senate is nearing a vote to confirm Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, but opponents are not backing down on their fight against the nominee. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt advocated against EPA policies and sued the agency more than a dozen times, including twice over the Clean Power Plan.

There also are concerns that with Pruitt at the helm of the agency, policies that protect clean air and water, as well as public health, would be at risk.

Susan Tullai-McGuinness is a registered nurse and an adjunct professor of health policy at Case Western Reserve University. She contends Pruitt's denials of the impacts of climate change are deeply troubling.

"Scientists now are in agreement about the changes that are occurring in our planet," she said. "To have a man who does not believe in climate change leading the EPA who is supposed to protect our climate and thus protect our health is just overwhelming."

Supporters argue Pruitt is supportive of a federal EPA, but believes the agency's reach should be restricted to cross-state matters.

A vote could come as early as Wednesday. Among Ohio's senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown said he will not vote in support of Pruitt, but Republican Rob Portman has not commented.

Tullai-McGuinness says the threats to public health in Ohio caused by climate change include worsening air quality, dangerous heat waves and greater risk of insect-spread infectious diseases such as Lyme Disease and the West Nile Virus. She believes the health community needs to continue to educate elected leaders about these impacts.

"Perhaps bringing some of our congressman here to Ohio when we have bad-air days and let them visit the emergency rooms and see the children gasping for breath," she added. "We just have to increase awareness."

Kristen Kubitza, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club's Ohio Chapter, adds there also are worries about the future of policies that play a major role in reducing carbon emissions and protecting public health, both here and around the globe.

"The Trump administration has promised to cancel funds to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which really helps developing countries deal with ways they're impacted by climate change," Kubitza said. "They're looking to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement as well as repealing the Clean Power Plan."


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