Making a bold-faced entry in the list titled “Why Elections Matter,” Congress has approved President Trump’s nominee to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. A former Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt is perhaps most noteworthy as a committed opponent of past EPA efforts to limit the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change. A New York Times headline called Pruitt a “seasoned foe” of the agency he has just been appointed to head; the Washington Post used the appellation “longtime adversary” of the environmental agency. The Los Angeles Times settled for calling Pruitt a “climate-change skeptic.”
The Senate’s confirmation of Pruitt as the head of EPA all but settles questions as to whether Trump would pursue the climate-change-as-Chinese-hoax ideas he propounded during the presidential campaign once he arrived at the White House. The answer would seem to be … yes.
Pruitt’s record of opposition to the EPA is set out in years of legal filings. As Oklahoma attorney general, he sued the EPA “more than a dozen times during the Obama administration, challenging the agency’s authority to regulate toxic mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions from power plants and the quality of wetlands and other waters. In Oklahoma, he dismantled a specialized environmental protection unit that had existed under his Democratic predecessor and established a ‘federalism unit’ to combat what he called ‘unwarranted regulation and systematic overreach’ by Washington,” the Post wrote. And, the New York Times reported that, once Pruitt is installed in office, “Trump is expected to sign one or more executive orders aimed at undoing Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, people familiar with the White House’s plans said.”
Pruitt has been accused of being a front-man for the fossil fuel industry, allegations that a 2014 Times investigation corroborated in astonishing detail. In fact, an Oklahoma court has ordered the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office to release thousands of Pruitt emails related to his dealings with fossil fuel firms next week.
But the Senate declined to (or, perhaps, purposely did not) wait for those emails to vote on the Pruitt nomination. In the end, only one Republican senator, Maine’s Susan Collins, crossed party lines to vote against Pruitt’s confirmation. Two coal-country Democrats—Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota—voted in favor of Pruitt.
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