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

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

Four Democratic senators are calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittInterior chief Zinke to leave administration EPA to pursue final 'science transparency' rule in 2019 Trump administration to unveil strategy for fighting lead exposure 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 WhitehouseDems ask if Trump aide Bill Shine is breaking ethics laws Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe Dems vs. Trump: Breaking down the lawsuits against Whitaker MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDem senator: Trump border policy 'designed to traumatize these kids' Senate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit MORE (D-Ore.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzThe Year Ahead: Push for privacy bill gains new momentum Giuliani attack on Twitter prompts backlash Bipartisan lawmakers call for investigation into VA amid issues with GI Bill benefit payments MORE (D-Hawaii) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension Massachusetts is leading the way on gun safety, but we can’t do it alone Lobbying World 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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.