Portending threats to efforts aimed at reining in climate change, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General and fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), his transition team said Wednesday.
The planned appointment, as Politico writes, would put "one of the agency's most hostile critics and a skeptic of climate change science at its helm."
According to 350.org executive director May Boeve, "You couldn't pick a better fossil fuel industry puppet."
Giving an overview of his background, Rhea Suh, president of NRDC, wrote this week:
Over the past five years, Pruitt has used his position as Oklahoma's top prosecutor to sue the E.P.A. in a series of attempts to deny Americans the benefits of reducing mercury, arsenic, and other toxins from the air we breathe; cutting smog that can cause asthma attacks; and protecting our wetlands and streams.
Pruitt sent the E.P.A. a 2014 letter asserting that the agency was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. It turned out the letter was actually written by lawyers for one of the state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy, the New York Times reported. The story named Pruitt near the center of a "secretive alliance" among energy firms, other corporations, and state prosecutors coordinating legal strategy to target federal regulations. And he often boasts of leading other states in challenging the Clean Power Plan in court.
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Further, as Food and Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement Wednesday, "Pruitt was part of an effort to combat the 17 state Attorneys General standing up to Exxon's climate deception."
350.org's Boeve said Pruitt "is a man who cares more about the profits of coal company CEOs than the health of our children or the future of our planet." The upcoming administration, she added, "is dead set on putting polluters ahead of people every single time. The EPA should be limiting carbon pollution and putting the brakes on reckless oil and gas development—not defending Big Oil and putting the planet's future at risk."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) weighed in as well, stating, "At a time when climate change is the great environmental threat to the entire planet," Pruitt's nomination "is sad and dangerous." And Dan Pfeiffer, former senior advisor to Obama said on Twitter: "At the risk of being dramatic. Scott Pruitt at EPA is an existential threat to the planet."
According to Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook, "It's a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history."
Still, Pruitt may find some of his efforts thwarted, as Vox writes:
By all appearances, the EPA is set for a major shift in policy direction under Pruitt. The big question is how easily he'll be able to steer a complex bureaucracy that doesn't change course overnight. Note that both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush came into office hoping to take apart key EPA environmental rules, yet were often stymied by the courts, by green groups skilled at litigation, by career officials, and by sheer inertia.
The news of Pruitt's nomination follows reporting this week by the Wall Street Journal that multi-billionaire investor Carl Icahn was among those advising Trump on who to lead the EPA. The WSJ wrote: "On Friday, Mr. Icahn said his role in the EPA selection was 'not necessarily a question about the environment' but was about changing regulatory agencies that are 'scaring businesses.'"