July 27, 2017
By Jeff Goodell –
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wants you to know that he was responsible for persuading President Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Pruitt has never said that explicitly, of course – he understands that if he wants to keep his job, he needs to pretend that the decision was Trump’s alone. But Pruitt did everything he could to telegraph to the world that he thought Paris was a bad deal for America, and urged Big Coal executives to make their views known to the president as well. Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, was lobbied equally hard by major business leaders and some of his own advisers, including his daughter Ivanka and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to stay in the agreement. But Pruitt, aligned with White House chief strategist and populist provocateur Steve Bannon, won the fight. And when Trump announced the decision to withdraw from Paris in the White House Rose Garden on June 1st, Pruitt was the only Cabinet official who spoke at the ceremony. “We owe no apologies to other nations for our environmental stewardship,” Pruitt said in a strikingly defiant tone.
In the following days, Pruitt was all over the media, taking bows on Fox News and sparring with Jake Tapper and Joe Scarborough. He argued that the agreement would slow the U.S. economy by hindering America’s God-given right to mine, export and burn fossil fuels, even suggesting the agreement was part of a plot by European leaders to weaken America. “The reason European leaders . . . want us to stay in is because they know it will continue to shackle our economy,” he said on CNBC. At one press conference, he claimed that 50,000 new coal jobs had been created by the Trump administration since the beginning of the year – a fake fact he refused to correct. (There are only about 51,000 miners in the entire coal industry; according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1,000 new jobs have been created in the coal industry this year as of June.)