President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly selected Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, a vocal EPA critic and climate skeptic, to head the EPA.
While Trump’s transition team has yet to confirm the nomination, several reports citing a transition official say the pick further signals the president-elect’s determination to weaken federal environmental regulations and dismantle the Obama administration’s climate rules.
Pruitt, who has been Oklahoma’s attorney general since 2011, has unsuccessfully sued the EPA to block many air pollution rules including standards for reducing smog pollution that crosses state lines and limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants. He has also played a leading role in efforts to block the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule.
A strong ally of the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt led an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with large energy companies to attack clean air rules, according to a 2014 New York Times investigation, and sent letters to senior federal officials that had been written by industry lawyers. He also received more than $300,000 dollars in campaign contributions from those industries.
In a May 2016 opinion piece that he co-authored for The National Review, Pruitt wrote the “debate” on global warming “is far from settled…That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”
Following reports of Pruitt’s EPA nomination, environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers immediately criticized Trump’s pick.
Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp called the decision “deeply troubling.”
“President-elect Trump’s choice for EPA Administrator has a record of attacking the environmental protections that EPA is charged with enforcing,” Krupp said in a statement. “Scott Pruitt has built his political career by trying to undermine EPA’s mission of environmental protection. He is a deeply troubling choice to head the agency that protects the clean air all Americans breathe and the clean water we drink.”
New York State attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, who is investigating ExxonMobil for possibly lying to the public and investors about its business risks posed by climate change, called Pruitt a “dangerous and unqualified choice.”
“As Attorney General, Scott Pruitt consistently failed to uphold his responsibility to protect our nation’s air and water, instead acting as an agent of the oil and gas industry — at the expense of the American people — every time,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “If the EPA under Scott Pruitt fails to uphold our nation’s environmental laws, I stand ready to use the full power of my office to compel their enforcement by the agency.”
American Sustainable Business Council CEO David Levine said by selecting Pruitt, Trump is laying out “the welcome matt for polluters at EPA. It also proves that the President-elect is more concerned about the fossil fuel industry and other polluters than with growing the economy and creating US jobs through investments in clean energy…This nomination also demonstrates a critical disregard for the impacts on businesses and the economy from climate change and extreme weather events.”
While oil and gas industry groups including the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute did not immediately respond to the news, attorney James Rubin, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney who previously served in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice, said Pruitt’s nomination “will certainly please foes of federal carbon regulation, given the positions he has taken his State on recent EPA regulations of power plants and oil and gas development.”
But he added these positions are rooted in federalism. “It remains to be seen what his policies and perspectives are on the myriad of issues related to human health and the environment that Congress has tasked EPA with handling.”