Trump taps Oklahoma attorney general for EPA.
Clean Power Plan to be target after pick sued agency
Signaling his intent to dismantle the centerpiece of President Obama’s climatechange legacy and radically transform U.S. environmental policy, President-elect Donald Trump will name Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a Trump transition team source.
Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared to confirm Mr. Pruitt had gotten the nod as she exited Trump Tower Wednesday evening.
“We’re very accustomed to the naysayers and the critics,” Mrs. Conway said. “Attorney General Pruitt has great qualifications and a good record . ... We look forward to the confirmation hearings.”
The selection of Mr. Pruitt virtually guarantees that the EPA’s massive effort to limit carbon emissions by crippling the U.S. coal industry, known as the Clean Power Plan, will be an early target of the incoming administration. Mr. Pruitt, elected as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2010, has sued the EPA multiple times in challenging the president’s regulatory authority, and he’s led the charge against the Clean Power Plan in federal court.
The choice of Mr. Pruitt outraged environmentalists and Democrats on Capitol Hill who fear years of work limiting U.S. emissions and phasing out fossil fuels will be rolled back.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader, said Mr. Pruitt will face “many tough questions” during confirmation hearings.
“Attorney General Pruitt’s reluctance to accept the facts or science on climate change couldn’t make him any more out of touch with the American people — and with reality,” said the New York Democrat. “Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing our country and the world today, and we must take it seriously and take action to address it.”
The nomination called into question Mr. Trump’s commitment to fighting special interests in Washington, he said, citing Mr. Pruitt’s track record of “advocating on behalf of big oil at the expense of public health.”
But leading Republicans were more positive, saying an EPA led by Mr. Pruitt will be less of a regulatory burden to states and the American energy industry.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, suggested Mr. Pruitt will roll back crushing regulations and give states a true role in forming energy and environmental policy.
“Pruitt has fought back against unconstitutional and overzealous environmental regulations like Waters of the U.S. and the Clean Power Plan; he has proven that being a good steward of the environment does not mean burdening tax payers and businesses with red tape,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement.
The selection of Mr. Pruitt is one of the first concrete signs that the Trump White House will take direct aim at the Clean Power Plan, a set of regulations designed to cut U.S. carbon emissions by about 30 percent by 2030. The plan, which requires states to develop their own methods for achieving emissions reductions, was enacted through regulations, not legislation, meaning the next president and EPA administrator can dismantle the program relatively easily. The regulations are the cornerstone of the administration’s larger climate-change agenda, including its vow under the 2015 Paris climate-change accords that the U.S. will cut overall greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025. Without the Clean Power Plan, meeting that global pledge is not possible.
Along with other attorneys general from across the country, Mr. Pruitt has been leading the legal fight against the EPA plan. In September, he was in Washington as Clean Power Plan opponents argued against the proposal in District Court. Afterwards, he argued that the administration is coercing states into enacting its climate-change agenda, and that Americans will be subject to higher energy bills as a result.
“This administration continues to treat states as mere vessels of federal will, abusing and disrespecting the vertical separation of powers defined by our Constitution,” he said at a press conference following the arguments. “I am committed to ensuring the ultimate payer in this matter is not overlooked — the consumers.”
The anticipated nomination quickly met resistance from Senate Democrats and environmental activists.
Oil Change International, a leading environmental organization, called on lawmakers to resist the selection.
“We call on Senators to reject this nomination, as well as other climate-denying, unqualified, and regressive nominees. There is no place in our government for individuals who refuse to accept science and risk the safety of Americans around the country,” the group’s president, David Turnbull, said in a statement.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the choice was “unacceptable.” And Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent who made a far-left run for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he will “vigorously oppose this nomination.”
“At a time when climate change is the great environmental threat to the entire planet, it is sad and dangerous that Mr. Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA,” he said in a statement. “Mr. Pruitt’s record is not only that of being a climate change denier, but also someone who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent, not less, on fossil fuels. The American people must demand leaders who are willing to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels.”
Coal advocates — who have argued that the Clean Power Plan will drive up energy costs for consumers — welcomed the pick and said they believe Mr. Pruitt will work to keep electricity prices down. Federal research has shown the Clean Power Plan will drive up electricity costs, at least in the short term.
“General Pruitt will be a strong advocate for sensible policies that are good for our environment, as well as mindful of the need for affordable and reliable electricity,” said Pail Bailey, senior vice president for policy at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
The choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency signals the president-elect’s intent to dismantle the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate-change legacy.