Since Donald Trump's election, Arnold Schwarzenegger has continued making headlines out of office by trading barbs with the president of his own party over reality-television ratings and racism in Charlottesville, Va.
The former California governor recently found a new Trump-related target: Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
While testifying at the California State Capitol late last week, Schwarzenegger laid into Trump's EPA chief, calling him "without any doubt, the wrong person at that place" and his tenure at the agency "so sad," according to press reports in the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.
“He does not represent the people," Schwarzenegger said. "He only represents the special interests. He should be removed immediately.”
Among Democrats, Pruitt is one of the most disliked deputies in the Trump administration, and it isn't uncommon to hear rhetoric this cutting from across the aisle. Plenty of former EPA officials from Republican administrations, like ex-EPA administrators William Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman, have criticized Pruitt in harsh terms as well.
However, the same cannot be said of the several elected Republicans (both current and former) who haven't been shy about questioning Trump's fitness for office or commitment to conservatism. Jeb Bush, another former GOP governor, once said "cannot think of a person more suited to lead the Environmental Protection Agency" than Pruitt. Pruitt's to-do list during his first months at the EPA, which included beginning to repeal the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule, could have been cribbed from a letter Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) sent Pruitt in February.
That month, every one of Sasse's Republican colleagues in the Senate except Susan Collins of Maine voted to confirm Pruitt. Not much has changed one year later: During the EPA chief's most recent testimony in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Republicans heaped praise on Pruitt.
To be clear, Schwarzenegger is hardly a typical Republican, so his criticism isn't as surprising. California has also distinguished itself as the state spearheading The Resistance to the Trump administration. In 2006, Schwarzenegger signed California's cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide into existence. And the state the actor governed for seven years hardly takes a typical approach to energy and environmental policy. California produces more solar power than the rest of the country combined. Under the Clear Air Act, it can restrict tailpipe emissions more stringently than any other state in the nation.
Still, by and large Pruitt has the backing of elected GOP elites. That makes the latest comments from Schwarzenegger, even if he is already a tried-and-true Trump critic, stand out.
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— De Niro v. Trump: Another actor, Robert De Niro, criticized the Trump administration’s stance on climate policy, specifically citing Pruitt’s recent remark that global warming may not be bad for humanity, per the Associated Press. “We don’t’ like to say we are a ‘backward’ country so let’s just say we’re suffering from a case of temporary insanity,” the actor said Sunday.
— Pruitt’s pricey travel: Records show Pruitt has frequently taken first- or business-class flights during his first year as administrator, according to a new report from The Post's Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin. An EPA spokeswoman told The Post all of the administrator's travel was approved by federal ethics officials, but Dennis and Eilperin explain “such travel decisions, coupled with a tendency to not publicize out-of-town trips, have prompted criticism from Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups.” Going into his second year leading the agency, the administrator is “distinguishing himself from his predecessors in ways that go beyond policy differences. His travel practices — which tend to be secretive, costly and frequent — are integral to how he approaches his role.”
Here are some of the highlights of Pruitt's travel habits from his first year as EPA chief:
- Last June, Pruitt spent $1,641.43 on a first-class trip from D.C. to New York City to tout the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord. His ticket was more than six times that of two media aides who traveled with him in coach.
- Pruitt and several staffers took a $36,068.50 military jet flight from Cincinnati to New York to catch a plane to Rome that was part of a round-trip ticket costing $7,003.52.
- Over two days in July, Pruitt spent $4,443 for round trips to Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta to visit a power plant and farm.
- On at least four occasions, Pruitt spent between $2,000 and $2,600 on first-class tickets to meetings or tours near Tulsa, Okla., where he lives.
- He spent $4,680.04 in first-class travel to Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Little Rock.
- He spent another $10,830 on flights with stops in Colorado, Iowa, North Dakota and Texas.
- On travel to a keynote address to the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank Meeting in Colorado Springs, Pruitt’s ticket cost $2,903.56.
- A flight to a tour of the Brainerd Chemical Company in Tulsa cost $1,980.34.
— Viva Las Vegas: The agency told EPA employees last week that its Las Vegas office will shutter at the end of September, two years sooner than expected, the Nevada Independent reported. The EPA's 50 employees there must either relocate, retire or resign, per the report. “The drivers behind the decision are the continued pressure to reduce the amount of federally leased space by consolidating operations into federally owned space and to reduce our overall operational costs moving forward,” an agency lab director told the publication.
— Hunting, expanded: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo in Utah on Friday the administration would expand big-game hunting across the West. Zinke also noted increased efforts to improve wildlife habitat. "We all know that animals go where animals want to go, and more often than not that's dependent upon natural features like watersheds, rather than whether land is owned by the (Bureau of Land Management), state or private landowners," Zinke said, per the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The priority states for the expansion include Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, per the report.
The announcement earned praise from some hunting groups unafraid to criticize Zinke on public-lands issues. “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is encouraged," Land Tawney, president and chief executive of that group, said in a statement. "We look forward to details on how this plays out on the ground."
— Get ready for Infrastructure Week 2.0:
This will be a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2018
The Trump administration is set to unveil its $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan and budget blueprint today. Politico writes the White House says "it will finally address a dysfunctional system in which Washington calls too many of the shots" and "federal red tape gets in the way." One of the proposals is to attempt to shorten the environmental approval process for infrastructure projects to two years, per Politico.
— How Trump’s infrastructure plan ignores climate change: The New York Times writes the proposal “could directly clash with one of its defining regulatory principles, which is to question the risk from global warming and roll back regulations addressing climate change.” The infrastructure plan could include new and expensive roads, bridges and airports that will be vulnerable to rising sea levels among other climate threats. And if the Trump administration doesn’t keep the climate in mind, it could mean the newest projects will be soon threatened.
— Plant explosion in Puerto Rico: An explosion and fire sparked at an electric substation caused a blackout late Sunday in northern Puerto Rico, delivering another set back in the months-long recovery process for the electric grid there following Hurricane Maria. The territory’s Electric Power Authority said several municipalities were in the dark, including parts of the island's capital, San Juan. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, per the Associated Press.
According to CBS News’s David Begnaud, 400 megawatts of generation were lost following the blast:
BREAKING: Puerto Rico’s power authority @AEEONLINE says 400 megawatts of generation were lost after an explosion/fire at the Monacillos power plant in San Juan.— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) February 12, 2018
“we are beginning to recover them as soon as possible,” PREPA states.
The latest outage continues what has been the longest and largest blackout in United States history, per Vox.
— Here’s some good news: A new analysis from the University of British Columbia argues the worst-case scenario for climate change can be ruled out. Simply put, the study says there isn't enough coal in the world to make that climate model possible. “The researchers contend that current goals of reducing coal, oil and gas consumption may be closer than we think, thus allowing us to set the bar even higher in our efforts to reduce pollution,” Bloomberg News reports. “We are still in a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, if the study is verified by other scientists and catches a wave into the realm of policy makers, it could help accelerate initiatives to arrest global warming.”
— Lawrence Bacow, formerly an environmental studies professor at MIT, will be Harvard's 29th president, per the Boston Globe.
- The Renewable Fuels Association’s annual conference begins in San Antonio.
- The Solar Energy Industries Association and the Energy Storage Association hold a breakfast panel discussion on the grid benefits of solar and storage.
- The Brookings Institution holds a webinar on “Assessing and managing the risks posed by climate change to state and local governments” on Tuesday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans holds an oversight hearing on “The State of the Nation’s Water and Power Infrastructure” on Wednesday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks holds a legislative hearing on various bills on Wednesday.
- David Gardiner and Associates holds a webinar on "The Growing Demand for Renewable Energy Among Major U.S. and Global Manufacturers” on Wednesday.
— This is some cool crunching: Listen to the soothing crackling of ice on Lake Superior near Duluth, Minn.