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Get To Know Scott Pruitt, The Climate Denier Trump Wants To Lead The EPA

by Ben Jervey

January 17, 2017
Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Image by Gage Skidmore (cc).

Scott Pruitt’s six-year tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma has been defined by his continuous legal assault on federal environmental and public health protections. Now he is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the very agency targeted in the majority of his lawsuits—the Environmental Protection Agency.

Science is the secular religion underlying everything the EPA does.

On Wednesday, senators on the Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold Pruitt’s confirmation hearing. While most of Trump’s cabinet nominees have been criticized as unqualified or riddled with conflicts of interest, Pruitt is arguably the most egregious of all. His hostile stance toward the role of the EPA is truly without precedent for a candidate set to lead the agency, according to a lifelong Republican who once led the organization.

“There has never been a more explicit and opposing interpretation of the authority and responsibility of EPA by an EPA nominee,” William K. Reilly, who was head of the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, told Yale Environment 360. “For a prospective EPA administrator to doubt or even contest a conclusion that 11 national academies of science have embraced is willful political obstruction.”

Over the course of his hearing, Pruitt will almost certainly be asked to speak to his strategic attacks on clean air and water rules, as well as to his close professional and financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. I’ve mapped these ties in the DeSmog project below, with a focus on the fossil fuel companies that have supported Pruitt through political action committees (PACs and super PACS) and organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Republican Attorneys General Association—where Pruitt served as chairman.

If you’re looking to dive into how Pruitt used ALEC, RAGA, and his Rule of Law Defense Fund to funnel funds from coal, oil, and gas companies, click through the map. Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, summarized these longstanding, deeply knotted ties to the fossil fuel industry when he warned that “Scott Pruitt would have EPA stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.”

Mr. Pruitt has blurred the distinction between official and political actions, often at the behest of corporations.

While Pruitt served as the state’s attorney general, hydrofracking turned Oklahoma into a land of perpetual manmade earthquakes, including the largest in human history. Pruitt also led an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” of Republican state attorneys general and large energy companies to attack clean air rules—an arrangement that led to, as The New York Times reported, his office sending a letter written by an oil and gas company (under his own name) to challenge EPA’s science-based analysis of the oil and gas pollution levels in communities around fracking operations.

Meanwhile, Pruitt’s time as chair of RAGA, during which he launched the Rule of Law Defense Fund, ought to demand close scrutiny in his confirmation hearing. Last Thursday, nine Democrats that sit on the panel that will oversea Pruitt’s confirmation hearing sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics, requesting more background on Pruitt’s dealings with RAGA and his coordinated efforts to undermine the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

“During his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt has blurred the distinction between official and political actions, often at the behest of corporations he will regulate if confirmed to lead EPA,” the letter said. “Public reporting based on documents produced by Freedom of Information Act requests illustrate how Mr. Pruitt and members of his staff have worked closely with fossil fuel lobbyists to craft his office's official positions.”

Just this week, EDF Action, the political arm of the historically moderate Environmental Defense Fund, released some new research revealing that in all but one lawsuit that Pruitt filed as attorney general, a co-litigator was a company that also contributed to Pruitt’s campaign or a PAC affiliated with Pruitt. The Environmental Defense Fund, which has never opposed an EPA nominee from either party in its 50-year history, stated that “Mr. Pruitt’s record and principles are so dangerous we are strongly opposing his confirmation.”

For a prospective EPA leader to doubt a conclusion that 11 national academies of science have embraced is willful political obstruction.

Throughout Pruitt’s legal career, he has continually put the interests of his fossil fuel allies ahead of the public, consistently dismissing scientific analysis. He is an outspoken denier of climate science, and he has repeatedly sided with industry over the scientifically proven threats of air and water pollution to Oklahoman communities.

As Reilly put it, “Science is the secular religion underlying everything the EPA does, and one who cannot rely on it, or is determinedly contemptuous of it, cannot effectively lead the agency or serve as the country's environmental conscience.”

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Get To Know Scott Pruitt, The Climate Denier Trump Wants To Lead The EPA