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The EPA's new boss, white flight in higher education and Bernie's identity politics.

By Informed Rant. This podcast was first published on Soundcloud.

In this episode of Informed Rant we discussed with the Center for American Progress’ VP of Energy Policy, Greg Dotson Trump’s proposed choice for EPA administrator, Steve Pruitt. Mr. Pruitt is the Oklahoma Attorney General, a man who, unlike 87% of the population, does not believe in climate change. Mr. Pruitt has received countless campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry and has sued the agency he is now tasked with running. We then move onto a conversation with Anthony Carnevale, research Professor and Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, about his article on “white flight” in higher education; “Since the 1990s, the number of black and Latino high school graduates who enroll in college has more than doubled. But three-quarters of that increase has been at open-access colleges. Meanwhile, white college enrollment has increased only at the nation’s top 500 universities. As a result, American higher education has evolved into a two-tiered separate and unequal system that fuels the intergenerational reproduction of white racial privilege.”

We finish our show with an interview with Katie Halper on her article about Bernie Sanders and what the media left out when discussing his statement about identity politics. Ms. Halper also talked about the split within the Democratic party.

This is the link to Rev. William J. Barber II article, “How progressives won a key victory in North Carolina” :

www.cnn.com/2016/12/06/opinions…th-carolina-barber/

Joshua Scheer:

My guest right now is Greg Dotson from the Center for American Progress. He's the vice president of energy policy there. I want to thank you for joining me.

 

Greg Dotson:

Thank you for having me on.

 

Joshua Scheer:

Obviously I could have focused on so many different of Trump's picks for positions of power within his government, but we're looking at Scott Pruitt today. He is the Oklahoma Attorney General, and he is a climate denier. He is someone who's being tapped to be head of the EPA, the EPA administrator. Am I mistaken there?

 

Greg Dotson:

No, you're absolutely right. I think the public should be deeply concerned about this particular choice. I'm sure as you know, the mission of the EPA is to protect public health and the environment. They are the Environmental Protection Agency. It's their job to make sure that the air people breathe is safe, and that means even for children, that means even for the elderly. It means the water should be safe enough to drink and that means even for people who have HIV and that means even for people who have other potential health conditions. There's really nothing in Scott Pruitt's background that gives us any evidence that he believes in that mission. It's alarming is what it is. He is the top legal officer for the state of Oklahoma and he has been since 2011. During that time, he has sued EPA just to stop numerous rules that would help prevent or eliminate pollution.

 

 

For example, EPA has acted to reduce soot and smog. This is what you see over urban areas and obviously LA, which used to be the smog leader, has done so much over time to reduce their problems with smog. It's still a problem in this country and it results in triggering asthma attacks. That's lost school days, lost work days. Evidence that researchers have discovered in the last few years shows that it could even kill people, result in people losing multiple years off of their lives that they would otherwise be enjoying. He sued to stop those rules. EPA, after a long delay, taking about 25 years I think to do so, finally issued a regulation that would control toxic air emissions from coal-burning power plants.

 

 

Scott Pruitt sued to stop those and have those overturned in the courts. By the way, in both of these cases, he was unsuccessful. The courts ended up finding out that EPA was acting within its appropriate statutory authority. It was acting appropriately to protect people and that the lawsuit to stop them from doing so should not move forward.

 

Joshua Scheer:

Sorry to interrupt you there. I wanted to one, bring up California because you brought it up and I'm going to play a clip. Kevin de Leon, who is the head of the California State Senate.

 

Kevin de Leon:

That's why we're here in Marrakesh, Morocco. We're not in theoretical. We're actually in the execution, implementation.

 

Speaker 4:

What would it mean if Trump pulls out of the Paris climate agreement for California? [crosstalk 00:03:29]

 

Kevin de Leon:

I've made it very clear here, since I've been in Marrakesh, Morocco, that irrespective of the ascendancy of Donald J. Trump, California with other sub-nationals, other like-minded states, [inaudible 00:03:38] states in the northeast of the United States, the Pacific Northwest as well as Canada, Mexico, and China, we're going to go it alone. We're going to move forward. We have grown the economy, being the fifth largest economy in the world. It's done so with a sense of [inaudible 00:03:52] and purpose, not by luck and happenstance, how we move our public policies dealing with the issue of climate change.

 

Joshua Scheer:

Said that California is going to go it alone and they invited other states to join. Is this something that's possible? Again, they don't want to rip up the Paris accords. In states where the economy has, as he pointed out is the fifth largest in the world, not in the United States but in the world, it doesn't compare to say Oklahoma. This man is being tasked with being the EPA administrator. Are states going to have to do this alone as LA has done with climate change?

 

Greg Dotson:

I think the jury is somewhat out. Certainly, during the campaign, although climate change did not receive as much attention as perhaps many of us would have liked, there were statements by both candidates and President-Elect Trump talked about how he would like to cancel the Paris agreement and that he would scrap various pollution control rules that EPA has established. So far, he has not pulled out of Paris. I think, to the extent the United States can stay engaged in that treaty, in that agreement, that's valuable to do.

 

 

It's not a binding agreement. What Paris basically says is that we will use our internal processes to do as much as we can. Good that he hasn't pulled us out of Paris. The question remains, does he actually fulfill the obligations that we've made which are to reduce our emissions by 26-28% by 2025. The nomination of Scott Pruitt indicates that we're in real trouble there if we're going to live up to what we have committed to do with the rest of the world.

 

Joshua Scheer:

It's interesting and maybe I'm biased because I just moved to somewhere near a freeway, I do live in Los Angeles though so the air's a little bit better, but with all the climate deniers and since this is something you focus on all the time, is it they don't care that we die? Or, they think they're going to be living in somewhere else? We all breathe the same air, right? There's no really getting away if our air is polluted. It may kill the people by the freeways first but we're all going to be affected, right?

 

Greg Dotson:

Yeah and I think it's really hard to talk about people's motivation without being able to look inside their minds. Scott Pruitt is somebody who has said that he's dismissed the scientific consensus on climate change. He says that, essentially, the jury is still out and we just don't know. For that reason, he wants to get rid of reasonable rules that would put a limit on how much carbon pollution power plants can emit. Do we know why he's saying that? Maybe he is just simply unaware of what the scientific consensus is. I don't know. We also know that he has received over $300,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Whether that's a factor, we have no way of knowing. What we do know is he's been very aligned with the fossil fuel industry. In fact, a 2014 investigation found that he was in what they described as a secretive alliance with the oil and gas industry to push back on EPA.

 

Joshua Scheer:

I want to let our listeners know my guest is Greg Dotson. He's from the Center for American Progress. He's the Vice President over there of energy policy. Trump has called the Clean Air Act, I think he called it a disgrace. I don't know the exact wording he used. I'll play something here.

 

Speaker 5:

If you were the President right now and you were over in Paris, what is it you would be trying to do on climate change and what is it you would be trying to prevent if you were leading the United States at the conference?

 

Donald Trump:

Well, first of all, I think one of the dumbest statements I've ever heard in politics, in the history of politics as I know it, which is pretty good, was Obama's statement that our number one problem is global warming, okay? When we have large groups of people that want to blow up every one of our cities, that want to destroy our country, that want to kill our people and he's worried about global warming. I think it's one of the dumbest things I've ever seen or perhaps most naïve. He could be naïve, in a certain way. He actually I think is somewhat naïve, if you want to know the truth, beyond the incompetent part.

 

Joshua Scheer:

Trump though, calling the President naïve to focus on global warming since last November. You were talking about what their motivation is but saying we should be focused on ISIS and our enemies first. There is some debate about whether we know global warming is playing a role in the Syrian Civil War and drought conditions all over this world. Clearly, this is an issue where Trump and this guy Scott Pruitt, who is now the EP, going to be the EP ... I'm sorry. He's not the President-Elect yet, I mean not the President yet. Scott Pruitt will be the EPA administrator. The agency's lost a lot of power. People have called it toothless. Do they just want to kill it? Going forward, maybe that's the issue is that they think there's bigger issues on the table like ISIS and everything else. Could that possibly be that they don't really think this might be a big issue? What do you make of that, the idea that the President of the United States, Obama, is naïve for not dealing with ISIS first and trying do something about global warming?

 

Greg Dotson:

I guess I'd end up pointing out that, even in the George W. Bush years, the senior folks in the military, generals, admirals, began to understand that climate change posed what they called a threat accelerator that essentially, layering that on top of all the instabilities in the world created a larger threat than the underlying conditions did it by themselves. You reference Syria. There's been work there to suggest that as you had a major drought which has a climate dimension to it, causing people to move out of the rural areas and into the urban areas where they were unable to find sufficient services or housing or food, leading essentially to a destabilized society, ultimately erupting in war. These are concerns that are not coming out of the environmental community. These are concerns that are coming though the national security community. They're coming from people who are very aware of what's happening around the world. The idea that a President of the United States, which can afford to choose to focus on one issue, no matter how important it is, you mention ISIS, to the detriment of every other important issue is I think a real simplification of the world that we live in. The President of the United States must be able to deal with all manner of domestic and international issues, all at the same time. Climate change is at the top.

 

Joshua Scheer:

You can find more at the Center for American Progress and my guest is Greg Dotson. This is CPA Action you can find at our Twitter page. To end it here, I guess, this is Donald Trump on the Environmental Protection Agency. We're going to have little tidbits left but we're going to get most of it out. Environmental protection is, "What they do is a disgrace." These are quotes from our President-Elect. He said, "We'll be fine with the environment. We can leave it a little bit." Those are some quotes from our President-Elect, I believe that was two weeks ago, about the Environmental Protection Agency. I want to thank you for the work you do, obviously. You can find more at the Center for American Progress. What can we do as citizens here to resist this? Part of your movement there is to resist the Scott Pruitt and to resist these calls to pollute our world, right?

 

Greg Dotson:

Absolutely. He will be nominated. We now know that he will be nominated as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. That's going to require the agreement of the US Senate. Certainly in California and elsewhere, every state obviously has two Senators, they're all going to have to take a position on this nomination. History is full of examples of the Senate saying, "You know what? You got this one wrong. This person is too extreme. This person is too inconsistent with where we want the country to go. This person is not consistent with the mission's of the agencies that they have to oversee and lead." I think, to the extent people can let their elected official know, I think that's a valuable service.

 

Joshua Scheer:

I think this may be the first time in history where we'll have the most rebukes of Trump nominees. Certainly qualified to lead the position is someone who sued to destroy the agency multiple times and has got money from the oil and gas industry. It's not the first time that it's happened, by the way, for a candidate level position. With 87% of the people believing climate change is real and does damage, including 78% of Republicans, this might be an easier fight but certainly this is one of Trump's odious picks.

 

 


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