Dems, greens gear up for fight against Trump EPA pick

Dems, greens gear up for fight against Trump EPA pick
© Getty

Democrats and environmentalists are laying the groundwork for a fight against President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Trump will nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the agency down what is set to be a road of roll-backs and deregulation. Pruitt has been a frequent litigant against Obama administration climate rules, and both he and Trump have questioned the science of climate change. 

ADVERTISEMENT

A transition official confirmed the choice to The Hill on Wednesday.

“We’re certainly going to draw a line in the sand,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “This is the worst-case scenario when it comes to clean air and clean water, to nominate a climate denier to the agency charged with protecting our natural resources.”

Pruitt co-authored a piece in the Tulsa World in May that said the debate over climate “is far from settled.” Scientists, he said, “continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone GOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college MORE (I-Vt.), an EPW member, said he will “vigorously” oppose Pruitt. 

“At a time when climate change is the great environmental threat to the entire planet, it is sad and dangerous that Mr. Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA,” he said in a statement. 

“Mr. Pruitt’s record is not only that of being a climate change denier, but also someone who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent, not less, on fossil fuels.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said “there will be a fight” over Pruitt’s nomination. 

“I think he has a record and it will scrutinized, and there will be opposition there as a result.”

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Koch network launches ad campaign opposing Trump's proposed gas tax Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE (D-Del.), the incoming ranking member on the EPW committee, said, “I know next to nothing about him, and I look forward to doing our due diligence and finding out a lot about him in the weeks to come and meeting with him next month."

Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway told reporters Wednesday that they're ready for the Democratic criticism.

"We're very accustomed to the naysayers and the critics," she said, according to pool reports. Attorney General Pruitt has great qualifications and a good record as AG of Oklahoma and there were a number of qualified candidates for that particular position that the president-elect interviewed. We look forward to the confirmation hearings." 

Pruitt is one of the most aggressive Republican attorneys general to oppose environmental rules from Obama’s EPA. Among other rules, he has sued over the Clean Power Plan, a regulation to cut power sector carbon emissions and a rule expanding federal authority over federal waterways. 

Both rules are on hold pending litigation, but Trump has vowed to end them as president. 

Pruitt’s nomination set off alarm bells in the green community, who noted the attorney general’s history with the energy industry in Oklahoma. 

“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. 

“He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA regulations.” 

The League of Conservation Voters said it “strongly opposes” the nomination. 

“It’s often said that personnel is policy, and President-elect Trump’s decision to nominate someone who has spent his career catering to Big Polluters speaks volumes,” the group’s president, Gene Karpinski, said.

“All people in this country have a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy the economic and health benefits of the clean energy revolution, and it’s vitally important that we have an EPA administrator who respects those rights.” 

Republican Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain Inhofe Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Overnight Defense: Senators show skepticism over Space Force | Navy drops charges against officers in deadly collision | Trump taps next Navy chief Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R-Okla.), the outgoing chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said he is “very excited” about the pick.

Pruitt's position on climate change is that “the world isn’t coming to an end tomorrow because of manmade gasses,” Inhofe said. 

“He’s very familiar with all the issues. He’s been involved in all the issues having to do with the EPA that I’ve been involved in. I’m very excited," he said.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (R-Wyo.), who is replacing Inhofe as chair of the panel, said, “he has a very successful history with his time in Oklahoma and I look forward to confirmation hearings, and doing it quickly, so that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE, when he comes into office, can have his team on the ground and ready to go.”

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said it was “pleased” with Pruitt. 

“General Pruitt will be a strong advocate for sensible policies that are good for our environment, as well as mindful of the need for affordable and reliable electricity,” Paul Bailey, the group’s senior vice president for policy, said. 

Democrats who hope to stop Pruitt will need Republican support to do so in the GOP-controlled Senate. Broad Republican opposition seems unlikely, given the party’s longstanding aim to undo Obama administration environmental rules.

Asked about Pruitt, and whether she would vote for an EPA nominee who doesn’t accept climate change science, moderate Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump GOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying MORE (Maine) said she “truly know[s] nothing about him or his views. I didn’t even know his name.”

“We’re going to do everything we can, we’re going to explore every procedure we can," Schatz said. "But in the end we’re going to need Republican cooperation. They’re going or have to step up and show that climate change, climate action doesn’t just belong to the Democrats."