What Media Should Know About Scott Pruitt, Trump’s Pick To Head The EPA

On December 7, President-elect Donald Trump named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Media should take note of Pruitt’s climate science denial, his deep ties to the energy industries he will be charged with regulating, and his long record of opposition to EPA efforts to reduce air and water pollution and combat climate change.

Trump Selected Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt To Head EPA

Trump Picks Fossil Fuel Ally Scott Pruitt To Lead The EPA. On December 7, The New York Times reported, “President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the E.P.A. itself.” [The New York Times, 12/7/16]

Pruitt Is A Climate Science Denier And Fossil Fuel Ally

Pruitt: Scientists “Disagree About The Degree And Extent Of Global Warming And Its Connection To The Actions Of Mankind.” In May, Pruitt co-authored an op-ed that appeared in National Review and Tulsa World that disputed the scientific consensus on man-made climate change. The op-ed asserted:

Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. [National Review, 5/17/16; Tulsa World, 5/21/16; NASA.gov, accessed 12/8/16]

NY Times: Pruitt Has Been Key Player In An “Unprecedented, Secretive Alliance” Between Republican Attorneys General And The Fossil Fuel Industry. A 2014 New York Times investigation revealed the “unprecedented, secretive alliance” between Republican attorneys general across the country and the fossil fuel industry to “push back against the Obama regulatory agenda.” The Times investigation was heavily focused on Pruitt, reporting that Pruitt's “ties with industry are clear,” particularly with Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, and that “energy industry lobbyists drafted letters for [Pruitt] to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama.” The article further noted that under Pruitt's leadership, the Republican Attorneys General Association launched a campaign “in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm ... to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues” and other topics. It added that “the benefits have been clear” for Pruitt, who has been supported by “notably solicitous” lobbyists and company officials who have helped him “raise his profile.” [The New York Times, 12/16/14; Media Matters, 9/22/16]

Pruitt Has Received Significant Campaign Contributions From The Fossil Fuel Industry. In addition to the $16 million reported by the Times that energy companies and other corporate interests gave to the Republican Attorneys General Association, fossil fuel companies have also heavily contributed directly to Pruitt. Data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows that Pruitt has received $271,111 in career campaign contributions from the oil & gas industry -- the second-most he's received from any industry -- as well as $42,385 from electric utilities and $24,250 from mining interests. The Times further reported that Oklahoma Gas & Electric “invited its employees to the Petroleum Club ... for a fund-raising event for Mr. Pruitt, drawing donations from about 45 employees, including the chief executive.” [Media Matters, 5/11/15; National Institute on Money in State Politics, accessed 12/8/16; The New York Times, 12/6/14]

Pruitt Has Blasted EPA, Fought To Block Climate, Air, And Water Protections

Pruitt Describes Himself As An Advocate Against The EPA’s “Activist Agenda.” On his LinkedIn page and biography for the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General, Pruitt boasts of being “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” [The Washington Post, 12/8/16; LinkedIn.com, accessed 12/8/16; Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General, accessed 12/8/16]

Pruitt Suggested EPA’s Methane Measurements Could Be Based On “Deception.” In a 2012 op-ed, Pruitt criticized the EPA for its method of measuring methane emissions, writing that the EPA’s method was either a “misstep or deception.” Pruitt added, “I suspect the true impetus behind the EPA’s change is to rationalize new and unjustified federal regulations to solve a nonexistent methane-emissions problem. The agency’s actions are at best incompetent, and at worst reprehensible.” [FortNightly.com, July 2012]

Pruitt Spearheaded Lawsuits Against EPA Over Clean Power Plan. Since 2014, a group of mostly Republican attorneys general has filed several lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to block the Clean Power Plan, which would place the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, a major contributor to climate change. Pruitt and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have reportedly led the coalition of attorneys general suing the EPA. In May last year, Pruitt testified at a Senate hearing on the “legal implications of the Clean Power Plan,” and baselessly warned that the carbon pollution standards would have dire consequences for the economy. [Media Matters, 9/22/16, 5/11/15]

Pruitt Filed Lawsuits To Block Several Other EPA Anti-Pollution Safeguards. The Atlantic reported, “What distinguishes Pruitt’s career is not just his opposition to using regulation to tackle climate change, but his opposition to using regulation to tackle any environmental problem at all. Since he was elected Oklahoma’s attorney general, in 2010, Pruitt has racked up a sizable record—impressive in its number of lawsuits if not in its number of victories—of suing the EPA.” The Atlantic went on to list many of the EPA’s anti-pollution safeguards that Pruitt has filed suits against, including policies limiting haze, mercury, and ozone pollution:

Many of these suits did not target climate-related policies. Instead, they singled out anti-pollution measures, initiated under previous presidential administrations, that tend to be popular with the public.

In 2014, for instance, Pruitt sued to block the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule. The rule is built on a 15-year-old program meant to ensure that air around national parks is especially clear. Pruitt lost his case.

Last year, he sued to block a rule restricting how much mercury could be emitted into the air by coal plants. He lost that, too.

And early in his tenure, he sued to keep the EPA from settling lawsuits brought by environmental groups like the Sierra Club. That one was dismissed.

He has brought other suits against EPA anti-pollution programs—like one against new rules meant to reduce the amount of ozone in the air—that haven’t been heard in court yet. While ozone is beneficial to humans high in the atmosphere, it can be intensely damaging when it accumulates at ground level, worsening asthma and inducing premature deaths. The American Lung Association calls it “one of the most dangerous” pollutants in the United States.

Tulsa World also reported that Pruitt filed suit against the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which would protect streams and wetlands that feed into sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans. [The Atlantic, 12/8/16; Tulsa World, 7/9/15; Media Matters, 9/14/16]