Politics

Trump Chooses Climate Skeptic To Head EPA

| by Robert Fowler

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Republican Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A vocal skeptic of man-made climate change and a noted ally of the oil and gas industry, Pruitt is expected to help roll back many of the EPA regulations passed during President Barack Obama's time in office.

On Dec. 7, the Trump transition team told reporters the president-elect was planning to appoint Pruitt to be in charge of the EPA. The nomination has been confirmed by Reuters.

Much of Pruitt's career as Oklahoma attorney general has been defined by his opposition to the EPA under the Obama administration. Pruitt helped coordinate a 28-state lawsuit against the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which would place limits on national carbon emissions to help curb the impact of climate change, The Washington Post reports.

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Pruitt has also been an outspoken ally of the oil and gas industry. His home state is fifth in the nation in onshore crude oil exports and produces 10 percent of the country's natural gas.

In his 2014 election campaign, the Oklahoma attorney general accepted donations from political action committees connected to Exxon Mobil Corp, Koch Industries and the American Gas Association, Politico reports.

Pruitt has also been a vocal climate change skeptic. In an editorial he co-wrote for the National Review in May, he asserted he was opposed to the Clean Power Plan because he believes that humanity's contribution to climate change is still in dispute.

"Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time," Pruitt wrote. "That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

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In 2014, it was discovered that 2011 letter that Pruitt had sent to the EPA protesting its regulations had been drafted by Devon Energy, an oil and gas producer from his state, according to The New York Times.

The Oklahoma attorney general defended the letter, stating that the Oklahoma oil industry had a right to protest EPA regulations.

"It should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies, the people of Oklahoma and the majority of attorneys general to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies," Pruitt said.

Trump's appointment of Pruitt drew fierce criticism from environmental groups and former members of Obama's White House.

"[Pruitt] has built his political career by trying to undermine EPA's mission of environmental protection," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

"At the risk of being dramatic," tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama. "Scott Pruitt at EPA is an existential threat to the planet."

Scott Segal of energy lobbying firm Bracewell praised the nomination, asserting that Pruitt would work to limit the agency's power.

"Given that we are almost two decades overdue for an overhaul of the Clean Air Act, there is interest on both sides of the aisle to look at that statute," Segal added.

Sources: Dan Pfeiffer/TwitterNational ReviewPolitico, ReutersThe Washington Post / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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