Pruitt's actions undermine his testimony as he runs from his own record

Felice Stadler

At his senate confirmation hearing, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt confirmed he is not fit to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose mission is to protect the public and our natural resources from pollution.

Despite what he said to the contrary, his record speaks for itself – a string of lawsuits against bedrock safeguards for clean air and clean water, routinely taking contributions from the major polluters with whom he sued the EPA, and closing down his office’s environmental enforcement unit.

His testimony demonstrated not only inconsistency with his own record, but a troubling lack of knowledge about the basic public health and environmental information that has been foundational to EPA’s work for decades.

It’s also no surprise that he spent his hearing running from his record of doing industry’s bidding when it comes to environmental protection, because he knows the public won’t support it.

In fact, Pruitt dodged a number of critical questions about his past during his confirmation hearing – all of which raise serious concerns about his nomination. Some examples:

His team solicited money from polluters

Pruitt told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island that he never solicited contributions from well-connected energy interests for one of his major political causes, the Republican Attorneys General Association.

But documents [PDF] released by state open records requests show Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff asking Devon Energy for help in soliciting the American Petroleum Institute for a contribution to RAGA, where Pruitt is past chairman and a member of the executive committee.

He tried to dodge mercury safeguards

Pruitt claimed his lawsuit against EPA’s mercury protections was merely based on concerns about EPA’s process. In fact, in a legal brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Pruitt went so far as to cast doubt on the underlying science, writing that “the record does not support EPA’s findings that mercury…pose[s] public health hazards.” (Brief [PDF], see page 23.)

And, after a first challenge to our nation’s mercury protections left them intact, Pruitt was so intent on blocking these safeguards that he sued a second time [PDF]  – even after virtually all our nation’s power plants had already complied with the mercury protections at a fraction of the expected cost.

He opposed protections for downwind states

Pruitt declared that there was a “very important role” for the EPA in addressing air quality issues that cross state lines.

But his actions tell a different story: Pruitt sued to block EPA’s safeguard for downwind states, and claimed that the rule would “ignore the law and encroach on state sovereignty” – even after the Supreme Court upheld the rule by a vote of 6 to 2.

He axed environmental enforcement

California Sen. Kamala Harris asked Pruitt to name environmental enforcement actions he took as attorney general. Pruitt cited just one case, against Mahard Egg.

As Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware demonstrated, this case was actually brought by Pruitt’s predecessor and Pruitt played only a minor role. His true record on enforcement speaks for itself – he shut down his environmental enforcement unit and his office never once touted environmental enforcement.  

He relentlessly opposed the EPA

Pruitt claimed he believed that the EPA has “a very valuable role.” But his own LinkedIn profile brags that he is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

Pruitt is wholly unqualified to run the EPA, an agency he has spent a decade aggressively trying to undercut.

Let’s hope the U.S. Senate sees this as well. 

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