Dem senator: Trump’s EPA pick is ‘corruption’

Dem senator: Trump’s EPA pick is ‘corruption’
© Greg Nash

Democratic senators on Thursday tore into President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), laying down a possible line of attack.

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Senate GOP pledges to oppose any efforts to 'pack' Supreme Court MORE (D-R.I.) said the upcoming nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA “satisfies virtually every definition of corruption of government” because of Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry. 

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“I think that we should be prepared to talk about this not just as a matter of bad climate policy but as a matter of corruption of government, when you take a government agency whose primary responsibility is to deal with the climate crisis and you turn it over to someone who has spent his entire life in service to the regulated industry,” Whitehouse told reporters on a call. 

Pruitt has been an ally of fossil fuel companies during his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma.

A 2014 New York Times investigation revealed he used oil and natural gas industry complaints against EPA rules in formal communications to the agency. 

Oil and gas CEO Harold Hamm is a strong Pruitt ally, and he’s received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from the industry. 

“This runs absolutely contrary to the strategy that Trump talked about during the campaign of ‘draining the swamp,’ ” Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes MORE (D-Ore.) said. 

“This is like filling up the swamp with one of the most determined and aggressive advocates for the fossil fuel industry, who has never thought for a moment about fighting for clean air or clean water, has certainly never considered being a champion of our planet.”

The fossil fuel industry has supported Pruitt’s upcoming nomination to head the EPA. He has won praise from conservatives for his aggressive legal challenges to the agency under the Obama administration. 

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a statement Thursday morning.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Pruitt’s nomination Wednesday evening. 

“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."