President-elect Donald Trump will tap Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Reuters reports. Trump’s pick is seen as a step toward gutting an agency that the president-elect threatened to eliminate during his campaign.
Pruitt is a climate change denier who has a close relationship with the fossil fuel industry. In a recent editorial in the National Review, he argued that the reality of human-driven climate change is still open to debate. But in fact, 97 percent of working climate scientists agree that the Earth is warming because of human activity.
In 2015, he sued the EPA as part of a coalition of 28 states that opposed the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a regulation intended to cut power plant emissions. He argued that the plan was unlawful and overreached the power of the Clean Air Act of 1970, a federal law that allows the EPA to regulate air quality and emissions. He also sued the EPA in 2015 over the Clean Water Act’s expansion to include more waters of the United States — which he said constituted overreach.
Pruitt has accused other attorneys general of using litigation to promote special interests, and being puppets for green energy advocacy groups. But a New York Times investigation in 2014 revealed that Pruitt himself enjoys a cozy relationship with top energy companies. The investigation turned up letters that Pruitt sent to the EPA and the president that were drafted by energy industry lobbyists — he was essentially acting as a pipeline for energy special interests, according to the Times. The relationship goes both ways, with Pruitt receiving donations from energy companies, Politico reports.
Senate Democrats could oppose Pruitt’s appointment, if that’s one of the many upcoming battles they choose to fight, ClimateWire reports. But they weakened their own negotiating power in 2013 when the Senate changed the rules on presidential appointments to allow approvals with a simple majority. “We need the public to be outraged and focused on the important role for the Environment Protection Agency to protect their public health,” Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) told ClimateWire.