Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

EPA Nominee Pruitt's Hearing Shows Him Poised to Be "Every Polluter's Ally"

Bernie Sanders and others blasted Scott Pruitt's anti-environment record on Wednesday, echoing scores of groups that oppose to his nomination

Deirdre Fulton

President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. (Screenshot)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee dug into Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Scott Pruitt on Wednesday, blasting his record of suing the very agency he's been selected to lead, and putting his fossil fuel industry ties front and center. 

As Ben Jervey and Steve Horn reported for DeSmog Blog, the morning hearing unfolded in something of a pattern, with "Republican members complimenting the [Oklahoma] attorney general and lobbing him softball questions, and the Democrats grilling him on his stance on climate science, his ties to the fossil fuel industry, and his perspective on what role the EPA has in actually, well, protecting the environment."

"Ninety-seven percent of the scientists who wrote articles in peer-reviewed journals believe that human activity is the fundamental reason we are seeing climate change. Do you disagree with that?" Sanders asked Pruitt. 

While Pruitt didn't deny that humans are at least partially contributing to global warming, he wouldn't be tied down on to what extent that is true. "I believe the ability to measure with precision the degree of human activity's impact on the climate is subject to more debate," he said.

Sanders pressed further, asking point-blank: "Why is the climate changing?" As Pruitt waffled, Sanders interjected, "I'm asking your personal opinion." 

"My personal opinion is immaterial to the job I'm carrying out," Pruitt told the Senate committee.

Sanders scoffed in response. "You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment, and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial?" he asked.

Watch below:

The Hill reports:

Sanders also briefly pressed Pruitt on why he didn't do more, or at least say more, regarding the sharp increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma caused by the oil and natural gas drilling industry.

Pruitt said only that he was "concerned" about the quakes, and Oklahoma's Corporation Commission is the primary body regulating that, not his office.

"If that's the kind of EPA administrator you will be," Sanders said, "you're not going to get my vote."

When it was her turn, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) spoke passionately about how environmental regulations impact human health. 

Meanwhile, several senators called out Pruitt's ties to the fossil fuels sector, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) holding up a chart illustrating how Pruitt has benefited financially from entities including Devon Energy, Southern Company, Koch Industries, and ExxonMobil. 

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) focused on a letter Pruitt's office sent to the EPA—one revealed by the New York Times to have been written almost entirely by Devon Energy. "A public office is about serving the public," Merkley said. "You used your office as a direct extension of an oil company rather than a direct extension of the public health of the people of Oklahoma."

And Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) "warned that Americans will view the EPA as 'every polluter's ally' unless [Pruitt] commits to completely recusing himself from ongoing litigation Oklahoma has taken against the EPA," as NBC News reported

"Otherwise, honestly, people are going to think it's not just the fox guarding the hen house. It's the fox destroying the hen house," Markey said. 

Pruitt would not do so. 

The hearing took place as major scientific agencies announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record, for the third year in a row.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Poll: Overwhelming Majority of US Voters Want Robust Regulation of Tech Companies

"When it comes to Big Tech's monopoly power and surveillance business model, the public is unified: They want action. They want to see the Big Tech companies broken up and users' privacy protected."

Brett Wilkins ·

228 Republicans Blasted for Brief Urging Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade

"Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Historic Victory': Bayer to End US Residential Sales of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

"As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."

Kenny Stancil ·

73 Major Corporations Paid Just 5.3% Federal Tax Rate Between 2018 and 2020: Report

Thirty-nine other companies paid no federal corporate tax during the three-year period, in which they collectively reaped over $120 billion in profits.

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Asks Congress to Act to Prevent Evictions—Just 3 Days Before Moratorium Expires

"These calls should have come weeks ago, not 72 hours before the moratorium expires."

Jake Johnson ·