Scott Pruitt Is a Historically Bad EPA Chief. But This One Might Have Been Even Worse.

Oh, and her son Neil is on the US Supreme Court.

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Scott Pruitt isn’t the first EPA administrator famously hostile to the agency. That distinction goes to Anne Gorsuch. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, the agency’s first female head was known for her jet-black hair, fur coats, proclivity for Marlboro cigarettes—and coziness with polluters.

Just weeks after taking the post on May 20, 1981, Gorsuch relaxed clean air standards. By September, she had slashed 3,200 jobs and the agency’s budget by 22 percent, even as she claimed to have shrunk the manual of clean water regulations from six inches high to half an inch. She tried to have a 30-by-40-mile rectangle of ocean off mid-Atlantic beaches designated as a spot where incinerator ships could burn toxic waste. Despite public fervor over hazardous waste sites—the Love Canal disaster had prompted passage of the Superfund law just before Reagan took office—Gorsuch lifted regulations for waste disposal and cut deals benefiting megacorporation Chemical Waste Management, which was later sued for illegal dumping.

A fierce politician—a newspaper in her native Colorado once wrote that she “could kick a bear to death with her bare feet”—she resigned after she was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over Superfund records suspected to reveal mismanagement. But the controversy that surrounded her tenure had a lasting influence on her son Neil—the rock-ribbed conservative nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, where he is expected to rule on environmental cases for decades to come.

Image credit: Con Keyes/LA Times/Getty

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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