Donald Trump will name Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a Trump transition team official said on Wednesday. An ardent opponent of President Barack Obama’s measures to curb climate change this choice will enrage green activists and be cheered by the oil industry.
CUT BACK EPA
This choice fits with Trump’s promise to cut back the EPA and free up drilling and coal mining. It signals the likely rollback of much of the environmental agenda that Obama has put in place.
Since becoming the top prosecutor for Oklahoma in 2011, Pruitt, 48, has launched multiple lawsuits against regulations put forward by the agency he is now going to lead, suing to block federal measures to reduce smog and curb toxic emissions from power plants.
CLEAN POWER PLAN
Pruitt is also a leading figure in a legal effort by several states to throw out the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change strategy that requires states to curb carbon output.
CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTIC
Pruitt has said he is skeptical of climate change. In an opinion piece in an Oklahoma newspaper this year, he wrote that he believes the debate over global warming is “far from settled” and that scientists continue to disagree on the issue.
An overwhelming majority of scientists around the world say manmade emissions are warming the planet.
PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
The Obama administration finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015 as a key part of meeting U.S. obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement which is an accord among nearly 200 countries to stop global warming. Many scientists say that warming in causing:
- Rising in sea levels;
- Increase in ferocious storms.
Trump has vowed during this campaign to pull the U.S. out of the Paris deal, saying it would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Since the election, however, Trump has said he will keep an “open mind” about the climate deal, and also met with former Vice President Al Gore, a leading climate change activist.
CHOICE OF PRUITT
Environmental groups and former Obama officials bristled at the choice of Pruitt, and some lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said they would fight his nomination.
‘FOX GUARDING THE HENHOUSE’
“Scott Pruitt running the EPA is like the fox guarding the henhouse,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, which supported Trump’s opponent in the election, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Time and again, he has fought to pad the profits of Big Polluters at the expense of public health,” Karpinski said.
Heather Zichal, a former deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change under Obama, said Trump’s choice was alarming.
“You can meet with Al Gore on Monday, pledge to keep Teddy Roosevelt’s environmental legacy alive on Tuesday, but if you nominate the Clean Power Act’s leading opponent to head the EPA on Wednesday, you’re making an unequivocal statement about the direction of your leadership,” she said.
PROMISE A BATTLE
Sanders, who campaigned for the Democratic nomination for president on a promise to combat climate change, said he will “vigorously oppose” Pruitt’s nomination. The EPA position must be confirmed by a vote in the U.S. Senate.
But representatives of the oil industry, and some Republican lawmakers, were cheered by the pick.
Scott Segal, an energy industry lobbyist at Bracewell LLP called Pruitt “a measured and articulate student of environmental law and policy” who helped “keep EPA faithful to its statutory authority and respectful of the role of the states in our system of cooperative federalism.”
CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTIC
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, also a climate change skeptic, said “Pruitt has fought back against unconstitutional and overzealous environmental regulations like Waters of the U.S. and the Clean Power Plan; he has proven that being a good steward of the environment does not mean burdening tax payers and businesses with red tape.”