On Monday, 13 former heads of state environmental bureaus sent a letter to senate leaders, urging them to reject Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's nomination as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief.
The letter (pdf), organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), implores members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to vote against Pruitt over his track record of opposing EPA rules—a history that calls into question whether he "appropriately respects science-based decision making" or would cooperate with states to protect Americans' health and safety from climate threats.
"While we have worked under both Republican and Democratic Governors, reflect a range of political views, and come from diverse states, we share a common concern about Mr. Pruitt's nomination," the letter reads.
In one instance outlined in the letter, Pruitt challenged the EPA's 2009 assertion that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. Along with the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt filed a lawsuit that argued the finding—based on analysis of scientific literature, including research by the United Nations' climate panel—was "arbitrary and capricious."
Although the legal challenge was unsuccessful, Pruitt's argument—that the EPA should not have relied on reports issued by scientific bodies—sheds a revealing light on his environmental positions.
"We find this deeply troubling," the letter states. "The fact that Attorney General Pruitt attacked this finding suggests a lack of understanding as to how environmental protection agencies make science-based decisions or, even worse, an inclination to set science aside when the outcome is at odds with his predetermined political point of view."
Pruitt has also filed a lawsuit to block air pollution regulations, which was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Rather than EPA acting as our partner in state-led efforts to ensure clean air and water for our residents, we fear that an EPA under Mr. Pruitt would undermine the rules that help to make sure that our state regulations are successful," the letter concludes. "For all these reasons, we respectfully recommend that this committee reject Mr. Pruitt's nomination."
The letter is the latest salvo in a campaign against Pruitt's nomination, following a day of action spearheaded by the climate group 350.org that saw protesters rallying outside of lawmakers' offices around the country, urging them to reject the Oklahoma official along with other climate deniers in President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet.
As Common Dreams and other outlets have reported, Pruitt has deep ties to the fossil fuel industry and the rightwing billionaires Charles and David Koch. The New York Times on Saturday reported that Pruitt impeded efforts to penalize poultry companies that had polluted Oklahoma's waterways with chicken manure—"one of a series of instances in which Mr. Pruitt put cooperation with industry before confrontation as he sought to blunt the impact of federal environmental policies in his state," the Times' Eric Lipton and Coral Davenport wrote.
Pruitt's confirmation hearing is set for January 18.