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EPA Head's Kentucky Visit Faces Opposition

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says his "Back to Basics" agenda calls for returning power to states and creating policies that enhance economic growth.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says his "Back to Basics" agenda calls for returning power to states and creating policies that enhance economic growth.
May 31, 2017

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, brings his "Back to Basics" tour to his native Kentucky today, but not everyone plans to welcome him home with open arms.

As Pruitt meets with the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers in Lexington, hundreds of people from around the state are gathering to protest. Pruitt has said his agenda calls for returning power to states and creating policies that enhance economic growth. But Hank Graddy, water chair with the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club, contends it's a false promise and a return to a dangerous and unhealthy past.

"Scott Pruitt is not going to be able to change history. He is going to delay progress, but he can't bring back the coal industry," Graddy said. "That era is over. We need to move on to the energy of the future."

Graddy noted that in Pruitt's short time as EPA administrator, he already has proposed reducing or eliminating clean-air and clean-water policies that protect the health of Kentuckians.

Tom Sexton, a Sierra Club organizer in eastern Kentucky, said the writing is on the wall, and folks are becoming more interested in sound environmental policy than they had been in the past.

"If you look at eastern Kentucky," he said, "there's tremendously high cancer rates and other ill-health effects that, if you look at the long history of mining practices, you can start to draw some connections."

Sexton said the Commonwealth deserves a future of clean-energy jobs, and policies that move the state away from the environmental degradation of the past.

"Everything from our mountains being blown up and the other sort of related environmental effects - acid mines, drainage streams - and we deserve an agency head that's going to try to rectify some of those problems," Sexton said.

Today's protest and march is to begin at noon at Triangle Park. Organizations sponsoring today's event include the Sierra Club, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Indivisible KY and the Rubbertown Emergency Action Task Force.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY