Dem senators demand EPA chief recuse himself on clean power plan rulemaking

Dem senators demand EPA chief recuse himself on clean power plan rulemaking
© Getty Images

Four Democratic senators are calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule MORE to recuse himself from overseeing any rulemaking regarding the repeal of an Obama-era rule on carbon dioxide emissions, because of his "closed mind."

In a formal comment submitted Wednesday to the docket for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report GAO to look into Trump's reduction of carbon social costs Overnight Energy: Pruitt used security detail to run errands | Dems want probe into Pruitt's Chick-fil-A dealings | Yellowstone superintendent says he was forced out MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems call for Judiciary hearing on Trump's 'zero tolerance' GOP lawmaker compares cages for migrant children to chain-link fences on playgrounds Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Ore.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator: 'Stop pretending' law banning separation of migrant families is hard to pass Hillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Dems question FCC's claim of cyberattack during net neutrality comment period MORE (D-Hawaii) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Dems press EPA nominees on ethics, climate Lawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars MORE (D-Mass.) wrote that Pruitt was unfit to oversee the repeal of CPP because of his history of lawsuits against the plan and the Obama administration when Pruitt was attorney general of Oklahoma.

“The evidence for Pruitt’s inalterably closed mind on CPP rulemaking is overwhelming,” the senators wrote. “It falls into three categories: (1) his deep and wide financial ties to the fossil fuel industry which is ferociously opposed to the CPP; (2) his status as a previous petitioner suing the EPA to block the CPP; and (3) his numerous statements denouncing the CPP, questioning the ability to regulate carbon emissions under the [Clean Air Act] as the CPP proposes to do, and casting doubt on climate science.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The four argued that the law makes clear that when an administrator is proven to have bias he should be recused.

"When clear and convincing evidence exists that a regulator possesses an inalterably closed mind about a subject covered by a rulemaking, s/he is not permitted to participate in the rulemaking," they wrote. "Pruitt’s extensive involvement in CPP litigation means that he cannot be impartial in CPP rulemaking and therefore must recuse himself."

The senators also mentioned Pruitt's history of receiving donations from some of the very groups the CPP could directly affect, noting that in his four campaigns for elected office between 2002 and 2014, Pruitt collected more than $350,000 from businesses and individuals in the energy and natural resources sector.

Since coming to the EPA, Pruitt has taken swift actions to roll back or do away with a number of Obama-era regulations he's deemed over-reaching.

CPP was a ruling, in particular, Pruitt has said does not carry the weight of law as afforded to EPA by Congress.

In October Pruitt sent an official notice of proposed rulemaking to repeal CPP.

“The Obama administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far with the CPP that the Supreme Court issued a historic stay of the rule, preventing its devastating effects to be imposed on the American people while the rule is being challenged in court,” Pruitt said in a statement at the time.  “We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate.  Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule."

Pruitt has pointed to a 2016 Supreme Court stay of the rule following the hefty legal battles it faced as proof that CPP is illegal. The rule was never implemented under Obama.

In an interview released last week with the New York Time's podcast, "The Daily," Pruitt argued that the EPA is not expressly responsible for regulating the effects of climate change — something the Obama administration had in mind when establishing CPP.