Sam Ross-Brown

Sam Ross-Brown is The American Prospect's associate editor. 

Recent Articles

Scott Pruitt’s Dirty War on Clean Water

Pruitt’s aggressive effort to repeal the Clean Water Rule is the latest battle in the Trumpian attack on environmental regulations, democratic norms, and the rule of law.

(Sipa USA via AP)
(Sipa via AP Images) Scott Pruitt on June 2, 2017 T his week, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case that will determine how far the federal government can go in safeguarding American waterways. At issue are challenges to the Clean Water Rule that began working its way up to the high court two years ago. Yet no matter what the Court decides, the Clean Water Rule’s days are almost certainly numbered as the Environmental Protection Agency finalizes a plan to kill the rule outright this fall. The agency has come under fire from scientists, environmental advocates, and state officials for moves related to its repeal crusade, including cutting back on public input, an ominous sign that flies in the face of past EPA practice. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, has a personal stake in this battle royale: He helped lead the multi-state legal assault against the rule during his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general, which culminated in National Association of Manufacturers v...

Can Cities and States Step Up to Fight Climate Change?

While momentum is building, local governments face myriad challenges in their bid to support the Paris Agreement.  

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) California Governor Jerry Brown, surrounded by lawmakers, speaks of the passage of a pair of climate change measures on July 17, 2017, in Sacramento. I n mid-July, California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg teamed up to announce America’s Pledge, a new coalition of seven states and more than 200 cities and counties that have joined together to continue to support the Paris climate agreement’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. In the weeks since President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from Paris, cities and states have scrambled to come up with initiatives that can actually close the gap left by U.S. withdrawal. But while local governments have made impressive pledges in recent weeks to mitigate the damage caused by abandoning U.S. commitments at Paris, what those plans look like in practice—and how they can slow the increase in the greenhouse gases that are fueling climate change—remains an open question...

The Republican Climate Science Witch Hunt

(Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak)
(Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak) House Science Committee Chairman Representative Lamar Smith of Texas in 2012 C limate change deniers have friends on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Lamar Smith, the House Science Committee chair who has been at the forefront of efforts to incinerate federal global warming research, is determined to provide a public platform for climate skeptics to share their widely discredited views and to step up attacks on federal research work overseen by groups like Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board. Meanwhile, President Trump has moved to cut back federal support for climate research and undo much of President Obama’s climate legacy, including the Clean Power Plan to phase out fossil fuel power plants and increase renewable energy production. But the Texas Republican and his allies may pose the bigger threat. The congressman moved to raise the profile of climate change deniers by inviting prominent skeptics to a Wednesday “Making...

Providence Coalition Forces Officials to Think Smarter About Transportation

A grassroots campaign to stop a traditional expressway project shows how communities can shape state transportation decisions. 

(Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr)
(Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr) T he massive 6-10 Connector in Providence, Rhode Island, that carries some 100,000 cars every day is one of the Northeast Corridor’s most well-worn arteries. Nine bridges link Interstate 95 with state and local roadways. A decade ago, some of the spans began to deteriorate and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation installed wooden buttresses to reinforce the weakest structures as a temporary stopgap measure. But today, those buttresses, along with several steel support beams, have fallen into disrepair, putting not only the expressway but also nearby Amtrak powerlines at risk. Like many expressways built in the 1950s and 1960s, the connector also ended up having an unsavory impact on the surrounding area, walling in several working-class communities in the city’s West End. People living near postwar urban freeways have long suffered from poor health, high poverty, and high unemployment rates. In the Olneyville neighborhood, the connector took a toll...

Incoming EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s Other Target: Clean Water

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to protect clean water, but his selection of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency tells a different story.

(Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik)
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt arrives at Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, December 7, 2016. S cott Pruitt’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency has drawn dire warnings about his impact on climate change, but the Oklahoma Attorney General could wreak just as much havoc on another core EPA mandate: the protection of clean water. Pruitt is well known for his legal challenges to President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, but his assault on clean-water protections has been just as fierce. In 2015, Pruitt led a multi-state lawsuit against Obama’s Clean Water Rule, a regulation aimed at protecting source water for one in three Americans. As with his Clean Power Plan suit, Pruitt and his allies succeeded in blocking the rule’s implementation. “I don’t think he’s found an EPA rule he hasn’t wanted to sue over,” says Michael Kelly, Clean Water Action’s national communications director. Trump said repeatedly on the campaign trail that...