Trump Picks Climate Denier and 'Fossil Fuel Industry Puppet' to Head EPA (Video)

President-elect Trump is naming Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Oklahoma's Republican top cop is a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, which is very at home in the Sooner State. Oklahoma is the nation's third-largest producer of natural gas, fifth-largest producer of crude oil and ranks second in number of active drilling rigs—and the state ranks last among all states in renewable energy usage. The Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association is America's oldest energy trade organization.

Pruitt is worryingly cozy with the fossil fuel industry, which has given him almost $350,000 since 2002. According to the New York Times, a letter from Pruitt to the EPA accusing federal regulators of overestimating the amount of air pollution produced by fossil fuel companies drilling new natural gas wells in Oklahoma was apparently written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of his state's largest oil and gas firms. The Times named Pruitt near the center of a "secretive alliance" of Republican attorneys general and "some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda."

As Oklahoma AG, Pruitt has also played a large role in the coalition of the Republican state AGs' counter effort against AGs in other states who are investigating ExxonMobil, and joined 27 other states in a lawsuit to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. In 2015, the Obama administration introduced new federal rules meant to reduce the nation's carbon emissions and speed the transition to renewable energy and a low-carbon economy, requiring existing power plants to reduce their carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. With Pruitt at the helm of the EPA, the agency charged with safeguarding the environment and human health by protecting the nation's air, water and land, these rules, which several GOP governors said they would defy, will likely be rolled back.

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Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Pruitt is a climate denier who has close ties to the fossil fuel industry. (image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC)

"Mr. Pruitt, like Mr. Trump, laughs at the public even as he calls himself a servant of working families," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). "He uses his office to help polluters at public expense and then denies it. He’s bragged about suing, trashing and manipulating the agency he's now supposed to lead. The minority of Americans who voted for the President-elect did not give him a mandate to turn our environment over to polluters and their allies like Mr. Pruitt."

Grijalva, who is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, highlighted the fact that on Pruitt's watch, Oklahoma has been stricken by a remarkable number of major, human-caused earthquakes due to fracking and the associated waste disposal operations across the state. Despite risks to safety, property and the national economy, state officials have been slow to oversee or regulate the practice.

Environmentalists were quick to criticize Pruitt's selection, which is widely regarded among renewable energy and clean air advocates as putting the interests of the big polluters ahead of environmental and public health. "You couldn't pick a better fossil fuel industry puppet," said executive director May Boeve. "Pruitt formed a secret alliance with oil and coal companies to gut our environmental regulations and has defended ExxonMobil's climate coverup. This is a man who cares more about the profits of coal company CEOs than the health of our children or the future of our planet."

Following the announcement, Boeve called Trump's acknowledgement of the connection between human activity and climate change and his meeting with former Vice President Al Gore "nothing more than a smokescreen." She said the EPA "should be limiting carbon pollution and putting the brakes on reckless oil and gas development—not defending Big Oil and putting the planet's future at risk."

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, also condemned the selection, saying, "The American people did not vote to return to the country to the dirty old days or to turn a blind eye on dangerous climate change."

She noted that "the mission of the EPA and its administrator requires an absolute commitment to safeguard public health and protect our air, land, water and planet. That's the litmus test. By naming Pruitt, President-elect Trump has flunked," adding, "If confirmed, Pruitt seems destined for the environmental hall of shame, joining the likes of Anne Gorsuch Burford and James Watt, two disastrous cabinet officials in the 1980s."

In a blog post Monday, Suh explained why Pruitt is the wrong person for the job, because, "over the past five years, Pruitt has used his position as Oklahoma’s top prosecutor to sue the EPA in a series of attempts to deny Americans the benefits of reducing mercury, arsenic, and other toxins from the air we breathe; cutting smog that can cause asthma attacks; and protecting our wetlands and streams." She added that "he often boasts of leading other states in challenging the Clean Power Plan in court."

"President-elect Trump's intention to nominate climate denier and leading clean energy opponent Scott Pruitt to lead EPA mocks the states, businesses and innovators who have led the transition away from fossil fuel dependency," said Brad Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy organization based in Boston, pointing out that Trump's decision "mocks the many leaders in his own party who understand the perils and opportunities climate change presents."

Even some business leaders have criticized Pruitt's nomination. David Levine, the CEO and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council, said that Trump’s selection will impair the creation of jobs through investments in clean energy, essentially giving "other countries major competitive advantages." He said that Pruitt's nomination "also demonstrates a critical disregard for the impacts on businesses and the economy from climate change and extreme weather events. Supply chain disruptions and major storms can be economically disastrous, especially for small businesses, some of which never recover."

Pruitt's nomination, while regarded as a setback for climate activists, will nevertheless galvanize opposition to the Trump administration. "More people care about climate change than voted for Trump. He is on the wrong side of this issue," said Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols. "If climate change denial is going to be the default position of the Trump White House, then relentless resistance will be the default position of the American people."

Watch a Fox News interview with Scott Pruitt, in which he calls the 2015 EPA rules a power grab:


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