By now you’ve heard that Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt built his political career attacking clean air and water safeguards – suing EPA 14 times to block such standards, and raising money from the companies that would benefit from looser pollution rules.
Some have asked whether Pruitt took any steps at all to benefit the environment during the six years he was Oklahoma’s top legal officer. The answer is: not really.
Despite the fact that he was elected to protect the citizens of Oklahoma, Pruitt seems to have made essentially no effort to protect them from illegal pollution.
At his confirmation hearing, Pruitt tried to point to some examples of positive action that he took for the environment. But his claims fell apart on closer scrutiny.
Some were largely actions of his predecessors, some were minor paper filings. At a Senate roundtable this week on Pruitt’s record, Oklahoma and national experts testified that they could not think of a single instance where Pruitt had taken action to further environmental protection.
And now comes word that even his most ardent supporters are backing away from other claims he’s made.
Pro-Pruitt group pulled links to lawsuits from website
A group that has been supporting his nomination, America Rising Squared, has removed from its “ConfirmPruitt.com” website all reference to several cases Pruitt touted against oil companies.
Notably, the cases weren’t environmental enforcement – they involved financial fraud claims that happened to be against oil companies – but they at least purported to show that Pruitt had sued his oil and gas industry allies. The chair of the Senate committee reviewing Pruitt’s nomination even cited this work in his opening statement.
But, as first noted by a reporter for The Oklahoman newspaper, references to these cases have been entirely removed from the website of America Rising Squared, now that the facts have caught up with the group.
Few of the touted cases were actually what they seemed to be. Under questioning, Pruitt at first claimed said he’d sued ExxonMobil - but then admitted he hadn’t yet filed any such case.
A different fraud case, it turns out, has been dormant since it was filed in 2012. And in a fraud case against oil giant Phillips 66, other Oklahoma officials said Pruitt fought them for months before filing separately and settling with the company.
An EPA pick with no environmental record
The most troubling aspect of the news is that President Trump has nominated someone to run the nation’s environmental enforcement agency who has no record – or apparently inclination – to do that work.
As attorney general of his state, he shut down his office’s environmental enforcement unit – and set up another office devoted in large part to challenging clean air and water safeguards. We should not be surprised if he acts in that same spirit if he comes to Washington.