Environmentalists protest scheduled speech by EPA head as President Trump considers withdrawing from climate deal

05/31/2017 05:57 PM

LEXINGTON – More than 100 gathered at Lexington’s Triangle Park to protest a cancelled appearance by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt Wednesday.

Pruitt had been scheduled to speak to the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers’ conference and trade show at the Lexington Center but stayed in Washington, D.C., as President Donald Trump mulls withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, which former President Barack Obama entered in September and includes more than 200 countries.

The EPA administrator has called the Paris accord “a bad deal” for the U.S. and called for a withdrawal in April, according to The Washington Post.

Pruitt’s absence didn’t deter environmentalists from marching around the convention center, waving signs and chanting slogans in support of the environment.

The protest was organized by the Sierra Club and other groups like Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition. Hank Graddy, with the Kentucky chapter of the Sierra Club, said the U.S. shouldn’t renege on the Paris agreement, calling such a move “a really dumb, dumb decision.”

“President Trump warned us about that, so he let us know that he was considering it,” Graddy said in an interview.

“But we believed he would listen to common sense and listen to both business and religious and scientific leaders who say it makes absolutely no sense for the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris accord. That just takes us away from the table where all the rest of the world is figuring out how to deal with this problem, and it isolates us and it means that we lose our position of moral and scientific and economic leadership.”

Pruitt, who grew up in Lexington, was also a target of criticism.

Sellus Wilder, a one-time Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who participated in Wednesday’s march, noted that Pruitt sued the agency he now runs 14 times as attorney general in Oklahoma and has rejected scientific research into climate change.

“I’m concerned that we have a president and a legislature and an EPA that values industrial profits more than they value the health and lives of actual Americans, and we see how that plays out here in Kentucky,” Wilder said in an interview.

“It’s not a coincidence that eastern Kentucky and the West End of Louisville both share some of the highest rates of industrial pollution and some of the lowest life expectancies in the entire country. It’s not a coincidence that both of these areas share high levels of poverty as well. It’s not a coincidence that industrial pollution is much higher in poor areas, and companies like the ones that support Scott Pruitt over the years, they don’t build their factories and plants around Mar-a-Lago.”

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has filed a resolution calling for an exit from the Paris agreement.

The resolution drew praise from the Kentucky Coal Association, and Paul said the accord “will do little to solve environmental challenges.”

“I support a path forward that protects both our jobs and our environment instead of sacrificing one for the other,” he said in a statement last week.


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