Why the Senate Should Reject Scott Pruitt
By Scott Faber
Soon, the full Senate will likely decide whether to confirm President Trump’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
There are many reasons to reject Pruitt’s nomination. First among them is the fact that he made misleading statements to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about his record as attorney general, his litigation history, and the role of the Oklahoma attorney general in environmental enforcement. Rather than respond to written questions, Pruitt told senators to file an open records request 18 times — or as Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said, to “go FOIA yourself.” In addition, Pruitt has refused to release 3,000 emails between his office and the energy interests he’ll regulate if confirmed — the subject of a court hearing this week .
Equally troubling is the fact that Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block steps to clean up our air and water. Pruitt told the Senate committee he only sued the EPA 10 times to block public health protections. In fact, his office actually sued the EPA 17 times and filed supporting briefs nine other times. So, that’s 26 times Pruitt went to court to block the EPA’s environmental protection actions.
What’s more, he won’t commit to recusing himself from matters related to these lawsuits — even though he took money from the same companies he now proposes to regulate. As Oklahoma’s attorney general and head of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Pruitt helped collect millions of dollars in political donations from energy, chemical and agriculture companies and trade associations.
Pruitt is also a longstanding “doubter” of climate change science. Although Pruitt testified to the Senate that he did not think climate change was a “hoax” and that humans play some role, he has has consistently used the fossil fuel industry’s playbook to sow doubt about climate science, saying “reasonable minds can disagree about what is actually happening, whether it is happening number one, whether there is a change in climate that is occurring.”
But what’s most disqualifying — and gotten the least attention — is his troubling record as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
First, Pruitt rolled back water quality protections. He falsely claimed that a 2013 agreement was a “historic” breakthrough to clean up a scenic river. In fact, Pruitt’s bad deal gave polluters more time to pollute and suspended enforcement actions.
Second, he repeatedly left poultry polluters off the hook. After receiving political donations from poultry polluters, Pruitt stopped pursuing litigation against them. As a state senator, he helped weaken a state law regulating poultry operators, allowing dozens of new chicken houses near rivers. And, after he took office as attorney general, a poultry waste lagoon subject to his oversight overflowed after a storm, fouling nearby creeks and lakes with chicken manure.
Third, Pruitt disbanded the attorney general’s environmental protection unit. As a result, environmental prosecutions in Oklahoma came to a halt. Now there are reports that the Trump administration may shutter the EPA’s enforcement unit.
Even former Republican EPA administrators say he’s unqualified. Christie Todd Whitman, President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator, said Pruitt is a “denier of climate change” who “doesn’t believe in regulation.” William Reilly, who led the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, said someone who is so “determinedly contemptuous” of science “cannot effectively lead” the EPA.
Perhaps the most damming fact: When asked by Senators, Pruitt could not name one environmental regulation he supports. He couldn’t even say whether removing lead from gasoline was a good idea, or whether or not lead was safe for kids.
Suffice to say, Scott Pruitt may be a good lawyer. There is nothing in his record to suggest he would be a good EPA Administrator.