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Over the past several months, the media has been riddled with reports of potential conflicts of interest between President Trump and his business connections. Yet the greatest disagreements lie within his own cabinet. On February 17th, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was confirmed by Congress as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, unlike most past cabinet members, Scott Pruitt is uniquely unfit for this position.  

Secretary Pruitt’s appointment presents a conflict of interest not due to business connections but because he has spent his political career trying to defund the EPA and block federal policies on climate change. Pruitt will not be able to balance his past political goals with the preservation of our country’s environment. Republican President Richard Nixon established the EPA in 1970 to prevent the detrimental consequences of climate change. Pruitt overseeing the future of the environment is vastly problematic since his goal has consistently been to deregulate protection.

Secretary Pruitt has described himself as the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Over the course of his career, he sued the EPA at least 14 times to prevent federal regulation of pollution and undermine the agency’s feasibility. Because Oklahoma’s economy depends on oil and gas, Secretary Pruitt’s positions reflect the state’s anti-regulation stance. Only recently, while being questioned by Senator Bernie Sanders, did Secretary Pruitt acknowledge that people may have an impact on the future of our environment.

However, transforming one’s mentality from belligerently criticizing pro-environment measures to properly running the EPA with the interest of protecting our planet seems highly unlikely. Secretary Pruitt will not be able to effectively uphold the necessary bipartisan values of the EPA with an intrinsic conflict of interest. Similar to President Trump’s conflict of interest with his international business endeavours, Pruitt will find it impossible to balance his personal views and interests with the needs of our country and planet.

Additionally, Pruitt himself was sued on February 7 by the ACLU for violating Oklahoma’s Open Records Act. Secretary Pruitt’s potentially illicit ties with the energy industry are raising doubts. It was recently revealed that he failed to respond to nine separate requests calling for him to release thousands of documents. Over the past several decades, Scott Pruitt also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from fossil fuel corporations. As Secretary Pruitt begins the new administration, he will not be able to prioritize the needs of our environment over the needs of his political allies.

Along with compensating for his varied personal agenda, Pruitt will have to manage the pressure from the rest of the Trump Administration. President Trump himself is a “climate change denier” and has campaigned against preserving the environment. President Trump clearly displays his stance on climate change in his recent social media ban of federal agencies such as the National Park Service and NASA, in fear of the spread of climate change related facts. The Trump Administration has already made plans for significant staff and budget cuts within the EPA.

It will be impossible for Secretary Pruitt to serve successfully as the head of a group he has devoted his career to eliminating. The confirmation of Secretary Pruitt endangers the integrity of both human and environmental health, as he will not be able to maintain a progressive agenda with his personal political beliefs.