Dem: Trump's EPA pick gave answers ‘shockingly devoid of substance’

Dem: Trump's EPA pick gave answers ‘shockingly devoid of substance’
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the Senate committee overseeing the Environmental Protection Agency says President Trump’s pick to lead the EPA gave wholly inadequate answers to senators’ questions.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Overnight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers 'highly toxic' to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting 'forever chemicals' | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE (D-Del.) late Wednesday revealed the answers that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) sent in response to Democratic questions and sharply criticized Pruitt’s responses and how he handled the process.

“Any candidate to serve as EPA administrator should’ve been able to provide sophisticated answers to all of them,” Carper said of the written questions the Democrats sent following Pruitt’s Jan. 18 confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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“However, Mr. Pruitt’s responses were shockingly devoid of substance, did not rely on empirical evidence and did not reflect the thorough effort that a task so important to our democracy demands,” Carper continued.

Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoHouse passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' GOP senator: US should 'reevaluate' long-term relationship with Saudis Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.), by contrast, applauded Pruitt’s answers to questions from both parties and said they show that he should be confirmed.

“He received over one thousand total, following his hearing, an unprecedented number, for a new administration nominee. Mr. Pruitt has thoughtfully responded to each and provided further evidence as to why he should be confirmed for administrator of the EPA,” Barrasso said.

Barrasso’s staff declined to provide the answers to questions that the panel’s Republicans asked.

In Pruitt’s 242 pages of responses, he often answers senators’ questions with short statements, saying that he would follow laws or regulations on the books.

For example, when Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke 2020 Democrats upend digital campaign playbook Gillibrand speaks of how she benefits from white privilege MORE (D-N.Y.) asked about how the costs of air pollution should factor in rulemaking decisions, Pruitt stated that the Clean Air Act prescribes procedures for considering costs. "I commit to fully follow the law as provided by Congress,” he added.

In dozens of cases in which senators asked about Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt told them to file public records requests with his office.

“Such information can be requested from the Office of Attorney General through a request made pursuant to Oklahoma's Open Records Act,” he told Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Warren reintroduces bill mandating climate disclosures by companies Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule MORE (D-Mass.) regarding payments to outside attorneys.

Pruitt was also noncommittal on numerous science and policy questions.

When Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCan new US Strategy on Women, Peace & Security give women a real seat at the table? Ask Afghan women Maryland lawmakers slam 'despicable' Trump remark about journalists on newsroom shooting anniversary Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt MORE (D-Md.) asked whether the EPA’s decision years ago to remove lead from gasoline was “an important and successful EPA rulemaking,” Pruitt said, “I have not evaluated this issue.”

Pruitt’s answers on specific policy and science questions usually aligned with what he said at the confirmation hearing. In one instance, he said that climate change is real and humans have an impact, but the “ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”