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\u0026#039;s been selected to lead, and putting his fossil fuel industry ties front and center.\u0026nbsp;As Ben Jervey and Steve Horn reported for\u0026nbsp;DeSmog Blog, the morning hearing unfolded in something of a pattern, with \u0022Republican members complimenting the [Oklahoma] attorney general\u0026nbsp;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\u0026nbsp;EPA\u0026nbsp;has in actually, well, protecting the\u0026nbsp;environment.\u0022\u0022Ninety-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?\u0022 Sanders asked Pruitt.\u0026nbsp;While Pruitt didn\u0026#039;t deny that humans are at least partially contributing to global warming, he wouldn\u0026#039;t be tied down on to what extent that is true. \u0022I believe the ability to measure with precision the degree of human activity\u0026#039;s impact on the climate is subject to more debate,\u0022 he said.Sanders pressed further, asking point-blank: \u0022Why is the climate changing?\u0022 As Pruitt waffled, Sanders interjected, \u0022I\u0026#039;m asking your personal opinion.\u0022\u0026nbsp;\u0022My personal opinion is immaterial to the job I\u0026#039;m carrying out,\u0022 Pruitt told the Senate committee.Sanders scoffed in response. \u0022You 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?\u0022 he asked.Watch below:The Hill reports:Sanders also briefly pressed Pruitt on why he didn\u0026#039;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 \u0022concerned\u0022 about the quakes, and Oklahoma\u0026#039;s Corporation Commission is the primary body regulating that, not his office.\u0022If that\u0026#039;s the kind of EPA administrator you will be,\u0022 Sanders said, \u0022you\u0026#039;re not going to get my vote.\u0022When it was her turn, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) spoke passionately about how environmental regulations impact human health.\u0026nbsp;.@SenGillibrand – thank you for defending our right to a healthy future in #PollutingPruitt’s hearing! https://t.co/Tq2pvk3551— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) January 18, 2017Meanwhile, several senators called out Pruitt\u0026#039;s ties to the fossil fuels sector, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) holding up a chart\u0026nbsp;illustrating how Pruitt has benefited financially from entities including\u0026nbsp;Devon Energy, Southern Company, Koch Industries, and\u0026nbsp;ExxonMobil.\u0026nbsp;Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) focused on a letter Pruitt\u0026#039;s office sent to the EPA—one revealed by the\u0026nbsp;New York Times to have been written almost entirely by Devon Energy. \u0022A public office is about serving the public,\u0022 Merkley said. \u0022You 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.\u0022And Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) \u0022warned that Americans will view the EPA as \u0026#039;every polluter\u0026#039;s ally\u0026#039; unless [Pruitt] commits to completely recusing himself from ongoing litigation Oklahoma has taken against the EPA,\u0022 as\u0026nbsp;NBC News\u0026nbsp;reported.\u0026nbsp;\u0022Otherwise, honestly, people are going to think it\u0026#039;s not just the fox guarding the hen house. It\u0026#039;s the fox destroying the hen house,\u0022 Markey said.\u0026nbsp;Pruitt would not do so.\u0026nbsp;Pruitt won\u0026#039;t give Sen. Markey clear answer on whether he would agree to recuse himself on legal matters he\u0026#039;s brought against EPA as OK AG— Alex Cameron (@AlexDCameron) January 18, 2017The hearing took place as major scientific agencies announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record, for the third year in a row.