It’s tempting to compare this to letting the fox into the chicken coop. But it’s much much worse than that. Because it’s our coop and our lives that will be in danger if Scott Pruitt becomes the next leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pruitt is one of the strongest critics of the agency President Donald Trump wants him to direct. As attorney general of Oklahoma, he has constantly challenged the EPA’s mission to protect human health by regulating dangerous pollutants such as mercury.

As a lifelong sportsman and advocate for Maine’s fish and wildlife, I am particularly offended by this. Our state’s fish and wildlife have the highest levels of mercury contamination in the nation. And that mercury constantly rains down on them, sent our way by power plants in the Midwestern states. Pruitt will do nothing about that. Indeed, he will reverse the progress we have made in the last few years to stop that mercury from being sent our way.

Pruitt also took the lead in challenging the EPA’s rules to regulate emissions of toxins, including arsenic, from power plants — rules that saved lives right here in Maine. Across the nation, those rules have prevented as many as 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks each year. The rules were set aside last year by the U.S. Supreme Court while the states’ lawsuit is resolved in federal court. And Maine people keep on suffering.

Pruitt also sued to block another life-saving EPA rule regulating emissions of ozone and particulate matter from power plants. An appeals court rejected that rule in 2012, but the ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

He’s been hostile to the Clean Water Act, calling it an unwarranted intrusion into state affairs. And he argues that the states should regulate pollutants, not the federal government. That would allow other states to continue to spew pollutants into the air that end up in Maine, hurting folks who suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments, as well as our fish and wildlife.

Pruitt also is a climate change denier. Perhaps he needs to talk to Maine’s commercial fishermen, who have suffered from the warming of the ocean. Or any of us anglers who were astonished and appalled by the warm temperatures and low water in our brooks and streams last fall. For the first time in the 38 years Linda and I have lived in Mount Vernon, the stream that passes by our home stopped flowing, and you could step across the brook behind our house.

I just don’t understand how anyone can deny that the climate is changing. For Pete’s sake, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and extremely likely due to human activities. Last year was the warmest on record — and the 10 hottest years on record have all happened since 1998.

Pruitt is also beholden to big business, especially those in the fossil fuel industry. He received more than $300,000 in donations from that industry.

I am grateful to Senator Angus King for stepping up to vote against Pruitt’s nomination. “I just can’t, in good conscience, as somebody who’s taken seriously environmental protection all my life, approve the appointment of someone who is so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency,” said Angus, a statement and decision that should make all of us proud.

But I wonder why Sen. Susan Collins has not joined him. Collins, should she step up quickly rather than wait until the last minute as that vote is cast, might rally a few other courageous Republican senators to join her. But we — and they — need to hear from her now.

Susan did the right thing when she stepped up as one of three Senators who voted against blocking the rules governing toxins in power plants. I don’t know how she could do that, and then vote for the guy who led the fight to block those rules.

This should be an easy decision for Susan, in a state that has taken great pride in the leadership of Sen. Ed Muskie in the creation of important environmental protection laws including the Clean Water and Clean Air acts. Sens. Bill Cohen, a Republican, and George Mitchell, a Democrat, followed Muskie’s lead throughout their service to our state, country, and world.

Please, Sen. Collins, stand with Muskie, Cohen, Mitchell, and King, not with President Trump and Scott Pruitt. And take that stand today.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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