Politics : Sam's miscellany
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From: Sam10/3/2017 9:08:42 AM
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Obama’s Record on Toxic Cleanups
By Vanessa Schipani
Posted on September 29, 2017

Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt criticized former President Barack Obama for leaving “us with more Superfund sites than when he came in.” This is misleading for multiple reasons:

  • While Pruitt is right, his agency doesn’t use this metric to assess its progress in cleaning up the country’s most contaminated sites. By the EPA’s own metrics, Obama did make progress.
  • There are advantages to being placed on the Superfund National Priorities List, which Pruitt was referring to when he made his claim. The EPA’s website says being listed “is the most effective and comprehensive approach for investigating and cleaning up contamination.”
  • Funding for cleanups decreased significantly after 1995 when taxes on the industries that create the sites expired. Obama tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Congress to reinstate the taxes in all of his budget proposals. But he did provide an additional $639 million for the program in the 2009 stimulus package.
  • Every president has left office with more sites on the priorities list than when he came in, even before the taxes expired.
Pruitt made his claim on Sept. 11 during an interview with the Washington Examiner:

Pruitt. Sept. 11: Everybody looks at the Obama administration as being the environmental savior. Really? He was the environmental savior? He’s the gold standard, right? He left us with more Superfund sites than when he came in. Air quality standards, 40 percent of the country, nonattainment.

Pruitt also isn’t telling the whole story when it comes to Obama’s actions on clean air quality. Obama did leave 38.9 percent of Americans with air quality that doesn’t meet the EPA’s standards, or “nonattainment.” But that’s down from nearly 58 percent when he took office. We went into the details on this issue earlier this month.

This isn’t the first time Pruitt has criticized Obama’s record on toxic cleanups. In May, he said, “Superfund sites, we have more today than when President Obama came into office,” adding, “what exactly did [the Obama administration] accomplish for the environment that folks are so excited about?”

Pruitt has a right to his opinion that the Obama administration shouldn’t be considered an “environmental savior.” But his claim that Obama “left us with more Superfund sites than when he came in” lacks context.

more analysis/context at
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