In an advertisement running in three newspapers Wednesday, a coalition of labor and civil rights organizations joined green groups in calling for Pruitt “to resign, or be removed.”
“We’re probably better known for traditional civil rights issues,” said Hilary Shelton, the NAACP’s Washington bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy and policy. “But in many ways we see environmental protection as an issue that falls under equal protection under the law.”
“If you look at the most dangerous environmental dumps throughout our country,” he added, “they’re disproportionately in poor communities.”
In addition to the usual suspects like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, signatories to the newspaper ad calling for Pruitt’s removal include Physicians for Social Responsibility, a doctors’ group that works on social issues; the Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest union of health-care workers, and Latino Victory Project, a group that trains and recruits Latino candidates for political office.
The inclusion of groups that don’t strictly work on environmental issues, even though many of them lean left, is the latest sign of growing pressure for Pruitt to leave office since news reports revealed the EPA chief’s penchant for flying first-class and his rental of a $50-per-night condo on Capitol Hill from the family of an energy lobbyist.
Republicans in Congress have proved resistant so far to calling for Pruitt’s removal, and on Twitter President Trump has said he stands by his EPA administrator. “Scott is doing a great job!” Trump tweeted earlier this month.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) deferred to Trump regarding Pruitt’s fate. “It’s really up to the president to decide who his team is and whether he wants to continue the EPA administrator,” he told reporters Tuesday.
In response to the ad, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement, “Administrator Pruitt is focused on advancing President Trump’s agenda of regulatory certainty and environmental stewardship.”
Luisa Blue, SEIU’s executive vice president, rejected the argument Pruitt and other conservatives often make that easing environmental regulations is good for jobs.
“In terms of jobs, we have to make sure they are safe,” Blue said. “If the regulations go away, what are they exposed to?”
The full-page ad is running in both the New York Post and the D.C. edition of the New York Times, both of which Trump reportedly reads, as well as the Oklahoman, the largest daily in Pruitt’s home state. Many energy industry lobbying groups have similarly sought to place ads on “Fox & Friends,” which the president is known to watch.
The spot focuses mainly on EPA policy while pointing out that Pruitt is “spending lavishly” on himself. “Pruitt has put the health of communities last, recruiting insiders to oversee the polluting industries they came from,” the ad reads. “His policies are dramatically increasing the amount of mercury, arsenic, lead, and other toxics that can be dumped into our air and water, putting millions at risk.”
The ad singles out Pruitt’s decision to deny a petition to ban the agricultural use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos after the EPA’s own scientists concluded exposure impedes brain development in infants and fetuses.
While the NAACP’s Shelton said the organization was “deeply troubled” by Pruitt’s nomination to the top EPA post in 2016, he said this is the first time the civil rights group is calling for him to leave office.
Studies dating back to the 1970s show pollution from cars and coal plants chokes poor and minority communities disproportionately. Trump’s EPA has sought to relax Obama-era rules on both of those sources of smog-forming pollutants.
“He’s proven us to be more right than we ever realized,” Shelton said.