President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pruitt has been a leading voice of Republican attorneys general nationwide who have banded together against environmental regulations put forward by the Obama administration.
He also has close ties to the energy industry: A 2014 New York Times investigation uncovered a letter from Pruitt to the EPA in 2011 which claimed the agency was overestimating the air pollution caused by energy companies drilling natural gas wells in his state. The letter had been written by lawyers for one of Oklahoma’s largest energy companies. Pruitt’s staff simply copied it onto official stationery “with only a few word changes,” The Times reported, and sent it to Washington.
“Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt,” the company’s one-time government relations director wrote to his office.
In a Trump administration, Pruitt would lead an agency he has proudly sued throughout his tenure as attorney general. Most notably, Pruitt and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey were out in front of dozens of attorneys general in challenging the Obama administration’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which aimed to decrease power plant carbon emissions 30 percent nationwide by 2030, from 2005 numbers. (Their lawsuit is currently still being considered by the D.C. Circuit Court. The Clean Power Plan has yet to take effect.)
Over the summer, Pruitt and several other attorneys general similarly challenged new regulations on the oil and gas industry.
Pruitt has downplayed the threat of man-made global warming, and expressed extreme skepticism that government has any role in addressing it.
A May article in the National Review, which Pruitt co-wrote with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, minimizes the impact humans have had in shaping earth’s climate and calls the policy debate surrounding climate change “far from settled.”
“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” it reads. “That debate should be encouraged—in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress.”
Shortly after Pruitt’s name surfaced as Trump’s pick to lead the EPA, Democratic voices began speaking out against him.
“Climate change is real, urgent, and caused by humans,” a statement from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) read. “It is a scientifically proven fact that any EPA Administrator should accept. That’s why I cannot support Scott Pruitt, a denier of climate science, to lead the EPA.”
“As Oklahoma A.G., Mr. Pruitt acted as a de facto lobbyist for the oil and gas industry by challenging President Obama’s E.P.A. rules to reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions at our nation’s power plants,” wrote Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) in a statement. “In essence, Mr. Pruitt has never met a federal environmental protection that he likes.”
This post has been updated.