Four Democratic senators are calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittUnderstanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing 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 WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyLawmakers call on Olympic committee to press China on human rights abuses Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid MORE (D-Ore.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzAlabama Republican touts provision in infrastructure bill he voted against Telehealth was a godsend during the pandemic; Congress should keep the innovation going Framing our future beyond the climate crisis MORE (D-Hawaii) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid 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.”
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.