How Will Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Policies Affect NYU Students?



Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has faced criticism from the left for his skeptical outlook on climate change.

Adriana Tapia, Contributing Writer

Global warming may be on the rise as heat surrounding Scott Pruitt — President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency — radiates from Capitol Hill.

Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General, has sued the agency 14 times on the basis of excessive federal regulations aimed to protect the environment. Despite this history with the EPA, Pruitt edged one step closer to being its head last Thursday. He was approved by a Senate committee and will face the full Senate soon.

CAS professor and Department of Environmental Studies Chair Dale Jamieson believes that Pruitt’s views are antithetical to the purpose of the EPA. He said that this type of unqualified leadership appointment to the agency is counterproductive and believes that Pruitt should have been disqualified during the selection process.

“Trump’s designation of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator sets a new standard of irresponsibility,” Jamieson said. “Like some of Trump’s other designated appointees, Pruitt has not demonstrated responsibility for the position he is supposed to hold; his abilities toward and apparent knowledge of science would disqualify him from many positions in the world of environmental policy.”

According to Jamieson, the only other precedent to this appointment was when Ronald Reagan appointed Anna Gorsuch as head of the EPA, and Gorsuch was forced out of office by a Republican Senate after 22 months.

CAS senior and Co-Treasurer of Earth Matters Aliakbar Hassonje said that although Pruitt’s appointment will challenge environmental progress, it will also stimulate the NYU community to pay more attention to environmental politics.

“Since financial and political assets towards the protection of the environment are going to decrease, more independent action will be needed,” Hassonje said. “Pruitt’s policies will bring pressure for students, faculty and the administration to develop strategies that maintain NYU as a pioneer of sustainability.”

Though Earth Matters will encourage students to be as involved as possible in working towards sustainability, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology Colin Jerolmack said that Pruitt’s appointment will most likely not directly affect NYU students.

“Given that Pruitt favors federalism and New York is a blue state, strong environmental regulations will still be in place through units such as the NYC Department of Environmental Protection,” Jerolmack said.

Citing the efforts of groups within the city, he said that Pruitt’s leadership on a national level concerns him more than possible impacts within NYC. However, Jerolmack said that the work of campus clubs such as NYU Divest — a group of students, faculty and alumni protesting for NYU to divest its endowment from top 200 fossil fuel companies — could be hindered.

“If Pruitt cuts regulations from the oil and coil industries, these will grow financially, which inevitably will slow down progress towards the ultimate goal of using renewable energy,” Jerolmack said. “The prosperity of these industries would also undermine the campaign urging for NYU’s disinvestment in fossil fuel companies.”

Jamieson said that appointing Pruitt to lead the EPA is nonsensical, and his actions could pose significant danger to the agency that he may be employed to protect.

“Pruitt is intellectually and politically committed to destroying the very agency he is supposed to administer and to undermining the laws it was created to uphold,” Jamieson said. “Appointing him as EPA administrator is like appointing an education-despising illiterate as Secretary of Education, a pacifist as Secretary of Defense or an active racist to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Email Adrianna Tapia at [email protected].