Sanders slams Pruitt’s call for ‘more debate’ on climate science

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDon't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs MORE (I-Vt.) castigated President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for calling for “more debate” about human influence on climate change.

Sanders, who ran unsuccessfully for president last year in part on an aggressive climate platform, repeatedly pushed Scott Pruitt to acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of recent climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases.

“Ninety-seven percent of the scientists who wrote articles in peer-reviewed journals believe that human activity is the fundamental reason we are seeing climate change. Do you disagree with that?” Sanders asked Wednesday at Pruitt’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Pruitt consistently responded by saying he believes the climate is changing and humans are contributing.

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But as to the degree to which they’ve contributed, Pruitt said it’s up for debate.

Sanders kept pushing, saying there is no scientific debate and eventually asking Pruitt for his personal opinion on the matter.

“My personal opinion is immaterial to the job I’m carrying out,” said Pruitt, the current attorney general of Oklahoma.

Pruitt went on to say that the EPA administrator “has a very important role regulating the emissions of CO2,” but added that laws put constraints on that authority.

Sanders was displeased.

“You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment, and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial?” he asked.

Trump has pledged to roll back all of President Obama’s climate change agenda, including the Clean Power Plan and limits on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling, all of which Pruitt opposes as well.

Sanders also briefly pressed Pruitt on why he didn’t do more, or at least say more, regarding the sharp increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma caused by the oil and natural gas drilling industry.

Pruitt said only that he was “concerned” about the quakes, and Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission is the primary body regulating that, not his office.

“If that’s the kind of EPA administrator you will be,” Sanders said, “you’re not going to get my vote.”