Dem senators demand EPA chief recuse himself on clean power plan rulemaking

Dem senators demand EPA chief recuse himself on clean power plan rulemaking
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Four Democratic senators are calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas 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 WhitehouseKavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDem senator calls on Kavanaugh to withdraw after second allegation Feinstein calls for hold on Kavanaugh consideration Overnight Energy: Warren bill would force companies to disclose climate impacts | Green group backs Gillum in Florida gov race | Feds to open refuge near former nuke site MORE (D-Ore.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Energy: Warren bill would force companies to disclose climate impacts | Green group backs Gillum in Florida gov race | Feds to open refuge near former nuke site Warren wants companies to disclose more about climate change impacts Congress just failed our nation’s veterans when it comes to medical marijuana MORE (D-Hawaii) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report 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.”

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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.