President-elect Donald Trump on Dec. 7 nominated Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has close ties with the fossil fuel industry and has been an ardent critic of the agency. As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt has led the legal fight against many of the EPA’s signature regulations during the Obama administration, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule, and standards on toxic and interstate air pollution.
Given Pruitt’s hostility to EPA policy and President-elect Trump’s stated positions on climate change, energy, and regulation in general, the direction of federal environmental policy is about to shift abruptly.
This change in policy also has potentially enormous ramifications for the EPA’s efforts to promote environmental justice. Over the past year, the lead contamination of Flint, Michigan’s public water supply and the protests in North Dakota over the Dakota Access oil pipeline have provided stark reminders that environmental burdens are often borne disproportionately by low-income and minority communities.