The Washington Post
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various forms of pollution, was confirmed Friday as the agency’s next administrator.
Pruitt cleared the Senate by a vote of 52-46.
The vote came after Democrats held the Senate floor for hours overnight and through Friday morning to criticize Pruitt as a pawn of the fossil-fuel industry and to push for a last-minute delay of his confirmation. Part of their argument was an Oklahoma judge’s ruling late Thursday that Pruitt’s office must turn over thousands of emails related to his communication with oil, gas and coal companies. The judge set a Tuesday deadline for the release of the emails, which a nonprofit group had been seeking for more than two years.
Republicans pressed forward with Friday afternoon vote, saying Pruitt had been thoroughly vetted in recent months and calling on Democrats to end what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called “a historic level of obstruction” in holding up Trump administration nominees.
Pruitt’s confirmation marked a serious defeat for environmental advocacy groups, which wrote letters, waged a furious social media campaign, lobbied members of Congress, paid for television ads and sponsored a series of public protests to keep the Oklahoman from taking the reins of EPA.
“Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA likely means a full-scale assault on the protection that Americans have enjoyed for clean air, clean water and a healthy climate,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “For environmental groups, it means we’re in for the fight of our lives for the next four years.”
Pruitt has 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.
And as the one-time leader of the Republican Attorneys General Association and the privately funded Rule of Law Defense Fund, he spearheaded a group of attorneys general that fought the Obama administration on such issues as the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reforms and efforts to extend overtime pay to more workers.
The prospect of Pruitt leading the EPA horrifies environmental advocates, who accuse him of repeatedly questioning the overwhelming scientific consensus around climate change and often defending the interests of fossil-fuel firms over the health of ordinary citizens.