January 18, 2017

Duckworth: I’ve Already Been to A War Fought Over Oil, EPA Head Must Keep America on Path Toward Energy Independence


WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today grilled the nominee to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, over his previous positions and contradictory statements about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which helps decrease our nation's reliance on foreign oil by requiring the use of home-grown fuel sources like biofuels, including corn-based ethanol, in gasoline. Video of Duckworth's questions at Pruitt's hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing is available here and here.

"As someone who fought to defend this nation, I've seen firsthand the price we pay for our dangerous dependence on oil imported from our adversaries," said Senator Duckworth. "I am incredibly concerned about what will happen to policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard under a Scott Pruitt-led EPA. These are policies that reduce our over-dependence on foreign oil, strengthen our national security and help grow clean energy jobs in Illinois and across the Midwest. I've already been to a war fought over oil, and I would rather run my car on American-grown corn and soybeans than oil from the Middle East. In order for that to happen, the head of the EPA must support and protect policies like RFS, but Mr. Pruitt's record shows that he will not. His vague, hollow and evasive answers today were designed more to sound good than to mean anything-that's not the kind of leadership the American people deserve or that they were promised by the President-elect."

Senator Duckworth has been a vocal supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which supports a $5 billion biofuel industry in Illinois that employs more than 4,000 people. Duckworth has joined corn farmers across Illinois in urging the EPA to adopt higher ethanol-based fuel requirements. Pruitt has previously made comments in favor of lowering the Renewable Fuel Standard, calling it "unworkable" and a "flawed program." Later in the hearing, Duckworth grilled Pruitt on his refusal to acknowledge that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water for children.

"I was flabbergasted today that Mr. Pruitt was not aware that there is no safe level of lead for children," continued Senator Duckworth. "Even low levels of lead can cause permanent brain damage in kids, lowering IQ and inflicting other cognitive damage. That is a serious oversight, especially in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis. Lead in schools and in public waterways is a serious problem to Illinois children and families, as well as to children and families across the country. The EPA should work proactively to prevent crises like Flint and protect American water supplies, but Mr. Pruitt's record of filing lawsuit after lawsuit challenging the EPA's authority to carry out its mission doesn't inspire much confidence that his goals are the same as the agency he seeks to lead."

Duckworth has been a vocal advocate for protecting communities from lead poisoning. She has introduced legislation to improve testing for lead contamination in schools and public water supplies and proposed allocating funding to help school districts remove lead pipes and fixtures from their facilities and to help localities reduce lead in community drinking water supplies and delivery systems.