Scott Pruitt Has Sued The Environmental Protection Agency 13 Times. Now He Wants To Lead It.

President-elect Donald Trump has made no secret of his hostility toward the Environmental Protection Agency. He has repeatedly called for its elimination, telling Fox News in 2015 that the environment would be just fine without it.

Activists say Trump has followed through on those threats in nominating Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, a man who has sued the agency 13 timesas Oklahomas attorney general. Pruitt, a climate change denier with close ties to the fossil fuel industry, has a long record of attacking the EPA and undermining environmental regulations. On his LinkedIn page, Pruitt refers to himself as a leading advocate against the EPAs activist agenda.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump regularly threatened to dismantle the EPA and roll back many of the gains made to reduce Americans exposures to industrial pollution, and with Pruitt, the president-elect would make good on those threats, said Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy organization. Its a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.

The EPAsmission is to protect human health and the environmentby issuing regulations and enforcing the nations environmental laws. Under President Barack Obama, the EPA created the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants. It also issued new guidance for the Clean Water Act to protect thousands of waterways and wetlands, and introduced measures to limit emissions from heavy-duty trucks and reduce smog and mercury emissions from industrial sources.

Last November, EPA chief Gina McCarthy said she was confident a Trump administration would not be able to derail the agencys progress over the last eight years. EPA has done its job well, she said.

Experts, however, say theyre not so sure. A number of EPA regulationscould be rolled backor simply not enforced. Even more complicated rules like the Clean Power Plan could be severely undermined.Pruitt, activists stress, would prioritize cooperation with industry over regulatory rigor.

Its this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt. Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists

The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science, Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement last month. Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPAs mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it.

The EPA is not a perfect agency the water crisisin Flint, Michigan, highlighted that but it does do a lot of important work with national and global ramifications.

Scott Pruitt has a record of attacking the environmental protections that EPA is charged with enforcing. He has built his political career by trying to undermine EPAs mission of environmental protection, Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement last month. Our country needs and deserves an EPA administrator who is guided by science, who respects Americas environmental laws, and who values protecting the health and safety of all Americans ahead of the lobbying agenda of special interests.

With Pruitts confirmation hearing scheduled for Wednesday, several activist groups have called on the Senate to refuse his appointment.

Its this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt,Kimmell said.

Here are four reasons why Pruitt has been called a dangerous choice to lead the EPA:

  • 1 He has threatened to undermine protections for air and water.

    Trump is no environmental champion, but even he has said it’s vitally important” to havecrystal clean air and water.

    Pruitt, however, has proven himself to be antagonistic to even this idea.

    Since taking office as Oklahomas attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has sued the EPA on multiple occasions in a effort to overturn rules limiting air pollution from power plants — including the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which curbs power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which place limits on the amount of mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollution.

    As Elliott Negin, a senior writer atthe Union of Concerned Scientists,explained earlier this month, those are both life-saving regulations: Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitts home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.

    Pruitt sued the EPA in 2015 over theWaters of the United States rule— which, in a piece co-written with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), hecalledthe greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen. The rule, which is currently tied up in the courts, extends EPA protection to tens of millions of acres of wetlands and millions of miles of streams,including those that 1 in 3Americans relies on for drinking water.

    Pruitt also sued the EPA over its 2015 regulationstrengthening the national health standards for ground-level ozone or smog pollution.

    Several of these lawsuits are still ongoing, and environmental advocates have called on Pruitt to recuse himself from decisions related to the regulations hes challenged in court. Legal experts told Bloomberg, however, that they knew of no rules in place that would compel such an action on Pruitts part.

    Every American should be appalled that President-elect Trump just picked someone who has made a career of being a vocal defender for polluters to head our Environmental Protection Agency, Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, said in a statement last month. He has fought Environmental Protection Agency pollution limits on toxic substances like soot and mercury that put us all at risk for increased cancer, childhood asthma and other health problems. He falsely claims that fracking doesnt contaminate drinking water supplies.

  • 2 He doesnt think the EPA is the nations foremost environmental regulator.
    Nick Oxford/Reuters

    During a House Science Committee hearing last year, Pruitt stressed that the EPA might need to intervene on some air and water quality issues that cross state lines, but that the agency was never intended to be our nations foremost environmental regulator.

    The states, he said, were to have regulatory primacy.

    Pruitt has shown himself to be a staunch federalist. As Oklahomas attorney general, he even created a federalism unit, with the specific aim of opposing federal protections and safeguards, including the Affordable Care Act and environmental regulations.

    Under Pruitt, the EPA will likely witnessan increasing effort to delegate environmental regulations away from the federal government and towards the states, Ronald Keith Gaddie, a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, told The New York Times.

    Though states may be best equipped to regulate certain industries, some experts have stressed that environmental protection is one area that needs more federal oversight.

    Pollution doesnt respect state boundaries, Patrick A. Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School, told the Times. States have limited ability to regulate pollution from outside the state, and almost every state is downstream or downwind from other pollution.

  • 3 He doesnt believe in climate change.
    Getty Images

    The EPAs stance on global warming is unambiguous.

    Climate change is happening, the agency says on its website, adding that the EPA is taking a number of common-sense steps to address the challenge of warming, such as developing emissions reduction initiatives and contributing to world-class climate research.

    Pruitt, like most of Trumps Cabinet picks, is a climate change denier. Ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus on the matter, Pruitt wrote last year that the debate on climate change is far from settled.

    McCarthy, the current EPA chief, warned in November that denying the facts about climate change would undermine the United States’success both domestically and internationally. Other countries are wondering if the U.S. will turn its back on science and be left behind, she said.

    The train to a global clean-energy future has already left the station, McCarthy added. We can choose to get on board to lead or we can choose to be left behind, to stand stubbornly still. If we stubbornly deny the science and change around us, we will fall victim to our own paralysis.

  • 4 Hes a close ally of the fossil fuel industry …
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    and their relationship has observers deeply concerned.

    Since 2002, Pruitt has received more than $300,000 in contributions from the fossil fuel industry, including from political action committeesconnected to Exxon Mobil, Spectra Energy and Koch Industries. The New York Times reported in 2014 that he and other Republican attorneys general had formed an unprecedented, secretive alliance with major oil and gas companies to undermine environmental regulations. One of the firms, Oklahomas Devon Energy,drafted a letter for Pruitt to send to the EPA in 2011. Pruitt printed the document on state letterhead and sent it off, almost verbatim, to Washington.

    As attorney general, Pruitt also filed several lawsuits with industry players, including Oklahoma Gas and Electric and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, a nonprofit group backed by major oil and gas executives. Last May, Pruitt joinedAlabama Attorney General Luther Strange in writing an opinion piece defending Exxon Mobil and other energy groups, after the oil giant came under scrutiny for allegedly failing to disclose its internal research on climate change.

    The Times asked Pruitt in 2014 whether hed been wrong to send letters to the federal government written by industry lobbyists, or to side with them in litigation. Pruitt was unapologetic.

    The A.G.s office seeks input from the energy industry to determine real-life harm stemming from proposed federal regulations or actions, his office said in a statement. It is the content of the request not the source of the request that is relevant.

    Opponents, however, say Pruitt is a Big Oil ally someone who, as EPA administrator, could prioritize industry interests over the health of the environment and the American people.

    This is a frightening moment, Harvard University professor Naomi Oreskes said at a rallyin December, referring to Trump’sCabinet picks. We have seen in the last few weeks how the reins of the federal government are being handed over to the fossil fuel industry.

    From denying settled climate science to leading the opposition of EPAs Clean Power Plan, Pruitt has sent a loud and clear message to Big Oil and its well-funded mouthpieces that hes their guy, said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who is one of six senators calling for Pruitt to disclose more details on his connection to some oil-funded groups, according to Mother Jones. To put a climate denier at the helm of an agency working to keep our environment safe is as dangerous as it gets.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the committee that will decide whether to confirm Pruitt, echoed similar concerns: The American people must demand leaders who are willing to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels. I will vigorously oppose this nomination.

    Its not just Pruitts fossil fuel connections that have raised eyebrows. A recentEnvironmental Working Group investigationfound that Pruitt gave aregulatory pass to polluters from the poultry industryafter receiving$40,000 in campaign donations from executives and lawyers representing poultry companies.

    Very clearly, this is someone coming in [to lead the EPA] with an ideology to deregulate at whatever government level he finds himself, Cook, the EWG head,told The Huffington Postlast week. Theres no saying that we just have a different philosophy about who should enforce environmental law. The philosophy, if it exists, is that environmental policy shouldnt be enforced at a state or federal level. It is industry unrestrained.

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    Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at The Huffington Post covering climate change, extreme weather and extinction. Send tips or feedback to or follow her on Twitter.

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