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Markowitz: Pruitt Confirmation Hearing

Vermonters count on the Environmental Protection Agency to help us protect public health and our environment. Who is in charge can make a big difference.

Pollution ignores state lines. Rutland, for example, has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country. And much of the pollution that causes this illness - while also harming our forests and lakes - comes from the Midwest.

When Midwestern states burn coal to produce energy their economies benefit from lower power prices, but we New Englanders see an increase in health and environmental costs. We rely on federal environmental laws and a vigilant EPA to ensure that all states enjoy the benefits of clean water, air and land - and that those who pollute pay the price.

We also rely on the EPA to develop and share the science necessary to keep our communities safe and our environment clean.
And every year Vermont receives more than ten million dollars from the EPA in grants for drinking water and wastewater projects, for cleaning up polluted sites in our communities and funding the state’s environmental programs.

So we should care about the confirmation hearings for EPA nominee Scott Pruitt. His record is a cause for concern.

Pruitt wants to dismantle many of the environmental programs that we rely on here. As Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the EPA to challenge the very rules that protect Vermont from the worst of Midwest pollution. He’s a climate change skeptic who ignores science and opposes regulations that are necessary to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

In the coming years we’ll need the EPA to be a good partner. For example, polluted drinking water in Bennington shows the need to better understand and regulate the many chemicals in our environment. Toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain remind us that we must do more to control pollution carried into our waterways by stormwater. And, as our weather continues to change, we must do more to prevent and prepare for the impacts of climate change. We cannot go it alone.

We need a leader at the EPA who will partner with the states – one who believes in our environmental laws, is guided by science, and committed to the mission of the agency he will lead.

There’s nothing more important than protecting public health and the environment.

Indeed, our future depends on it.

Deb Markowitz is the Director of Policy Outreach at UVM’s Gund Institute of Environment, and she formerly served as Vermont’s Secretary of State and as the Secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources.
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