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Pruitt Protesters Promise A Fight On Climate Accord

Josh James
Triangle Park protester holds a sign urging the Trump administration to commit to the Paris climate accord on May 31, 2017.

With all indications pointing toward an imminent U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, activists congregated in Triangle Park in the hopes of reaching Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt had planned to meet with the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, but canceled. Demonstrators with the Sierra Club, the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, and other groups elected to go forward with the event despite the no-show.

Their message on the climate pact: "We won't let him do it."

Credit Josh James / WUKY
Hank Graddy with the Sierra Club addresses a protest originally planned ahead of a visit by EPA head Scott Pruitt on May 31, 2017.

Multiple media outlets, including NPR, report that an official Trump administration announcement on the climate accord is forthcoming, with some sources suggesting the president has already decided to sever the U.S. commitment forged under his predecessor.

"We wanted to welcome Scott Pruitt back to Kentucky and try to get him to turn around and head toward the future, rather than head backwards," says Hank Graddy, an environmental attorney with the Sierra Club. "And he decided not to come, and he's going to stay with Trump and go even further backwards."

Pruitt, a Kentucky native, is one of the strongest voices pressing for a complete withdrawal from the Paris pact. Although critics caution the move would pit the U.S. against nearly every other country on the planet, the new EPA head labels it a "bad business deal."

“Paris represents an agreement that puts America last… Paris represented a situation where China and India went ahead and didn’t take any steps to address C02 reductions, while we front loaded our cost, contracting our economy 2.5 trillion dollars in gross domestic product over a 10 year period,” he told Fox Business in May.

Emma Anderson, a soon-to-be senior at Centre College, says the environmental about face has her fellow students speaking up.

"If I did my job like he does his job, I'd be fired," she says, before the Triangle Park protest gets underway. While the pre-EPA days may seem like ancient history to those her age, Anderson says she has no interest in revisiting them. 

"Things were not great and we don't want to return to that," she warns.

Pruitt has signaled he intends to shrink the regulatory footprint of the EPA, as it likely undergoes major cuts.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.