Despite protest from Democrats, and even from Environmental Protection Agency workers themselves, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Scott Pruitt to run the EPA on Feb. 17. The pick was controversial because Pruitt himself is an opponent of the EPA who has even sued the organization. Here’s what you need to know about Pruitt.
1. He’s served as head of the Republican Attorneys General Association.
Pruitt has been the attorney general of Oklahoma since 2010 and, during that time, he’s served two terms as president of the Republican Attorneys General Association. His work with that group alone is enough to raise eyebrows from environmental advocates, since the association relies on funding from the oil industry and conservative groups.
2. Before serving as attorney general, he was a member of the Oklahoma state legislature.
In 1998, Pruitt was elected to the Oklahoma state Senate, where he went on to spend eight years serving in the legislature. While in the state Senate, he moved to prominence in the party, serving as Republican whip from 2001 to 2003 and assistant Republican floor leader from 2003 to 2006.
3. He ran, unsuccessfully, for other offices in Oklahoma before becoming attorney general.
In 2001, Pruitt ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during a special election but lost the bid. Then, in 2006, he ran for lieutenant governor but failed to get past the Republican primary.
4. He’s a climate change skeptic.
In May, Pruitt wrote a piece about climate change for the National Review, which many environmentalists found troubling. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote. “That debate should be encouraged – in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”
5. He believes the EPA currently oversteps its bounds.
Pruitt has said in the past that he thinks EPA regulation goes beyond the scopes of its authority. “What concerns the states is the process, the procedures, the authority that the EPA is exerting that we think is entirely inconsistent with its constitutional and statutory authority,” he told the Washington Post.
As head of the EPA, Pruitt will likely pass a great deal of environmental oversight down to the states. He’s said in the past that he thinks many environmental protection issues are better handled at the state level, a belief that his friend, Dallas investor Doug Deason, recently discussed. “Just like most Republican attorney generals, especially in energy-producing states, he has been really frustrated with the government and the EPA’s overreach into everything,” Deason said.
6. And his personal LinkedIn page literally describes him as an advocate against the EPA.
On the site, Pruitt describes himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” He also wrote that he “led the charge with repeated notices and subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership’s activist agenda.”
7. He’s received massive contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
Since 2002, Pruitt has received more than $300,000 in contributions from oil, gas, and coal companies.
8. Some see his appointment as Trump making good on a campaign promise.
During the campaign, Trump made several promises related to weakening the EPA, and changing the United States’ policies on climate change and the environment. He expressed a desire to “cancel” the Paris accord on climate change and called President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan a “war on coal.” Back in 2012, he tweeted claims that climate change is a hoax.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
9. He’s involved in several groups and lawsuits against the Obama administration.
Pruitt, along with a group of likeminded attorneys general, has teamed up with top energy producers to fight back against Obama’s regulations. Given that, it seems very likely that, if confirmed, Pruitt would work to dismantle existing regulation from within the EPA.
He and other conservative attorneys general have also filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s climate rules. The case is currently awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals, but is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court.
Pruitt is part of a group of attorneys general suing over new EPA regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions. He’s also involved in suits regarding Obama’s immigration policies, the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and the Dodd-Frank financial reform.
10. Environmental groups and advocates are concerned.
Pruitt’s nomination immediately drew criticism from Democrats and progressive groups, with many promising to fight his appointment. According to Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader, Pruitt’s “reluctance to accept the facts or science on climate change couldn’t make him any more out of touch with the American people – and with reality.”
Bernie Sanders has also spoken out against Pruitt’s nomination and called out some of his questionable connections to the fossil fuel industry.
Trump’s nominee to lead EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a climate denier who’s worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. That’s sad and dangerous.
– Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 7, 2016
Climate change denier Scott Pruitt has worked with fossil fuel companies to make us more dependent on fossil fuels. https://t.co/ipXhImrXFY
– Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 7, 2016
11. Even EPA employees protested his nomination.
According to the New York Times, workers at the Environmental Protection Agency called their senators to protest Pruitt’s nomination. “It seems like Trump and Pruitt want a complete reversal of what EPA has done,” Nicole Cantello, a lawyer for the agency in Chicago, told the newspaper. “I don’t know if there’s any other agency that’s been so reviled. So it’s in our interests to do this.” And because it’s hard to fire civil service workers, Pruitt is going to have to work with a group of employees who disagree with his mission.
12. He doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a major cause of climate change.
– Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) March 9, 2017
On March 9, just two weeks after being confirmed as EPA chief, Pruitt told CNBC, “I would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see … we need to continue to review the analysis.”
“I believe that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact,” he also said.
His statement contradicts the overwhelming body of scientific evidence, NPR noted, showing that humans are making the planet warmer by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are literally reams of data – including data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – supporting the notion that carbon dioxide is causing the planet to warm.
The EPA has the power to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and Pruitt, NPR added, is beginning to stack the EPA with people who hold similar views as his.