WASHINGTON — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has led lawsuits against the EPA. He has written the scientific debate over climate change is “far from settled.” And he said the US’ unnecessary environmental regulations have drained billions from its economy.
Now President-elect Donald Trump has tapped him to be the EPA administrator, a cabinet-level post responsible for the well-being of the environment.
Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding humanity’s impact on the planet’s climate, Trump has denounced climate change as a something propagated by the Chinese government. He has bemoaned environmental regulations hampering economic growth and trashed international accords like the Paris Agreement.
Although Pruitt has not invoked the Chinese, he has been in vociferous agreement on all these points for years. Few people have Pruitt’s demonstrated focus on and successes against the EPA.
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” Pruitt said in a statement after Trump picked him.
Since the election, Trump had signaled a more conciliatory tone to those concerned about the environment, telling the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman that he believed humans had some impact on climate and meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, who has made climate change his principal cause.
However, Trump’s choice of Pruitt, a climate change denier and fierce opponent of regulatory overreach, showed his commitment to overhauling the EPA and changing course on climate — all things he promised to do throughout his campaign.
What do Pruitt’s critics say?
Pruitt’s backers and Pruitt’s critics seem to be in agreement on several points: The Oklahoma attorney general is among the EPA’s most steadfast opponents and could usher in an abrupt shift to the country’s position on climate change.
While his backers have made this a selling point, his critics have warned his coziness with the fossil fuel industry and his denial of climate science make him a singularly dangerous person as the international community has finally begun to take steps to reduce its carbon emissions.
Additionally, his critics have said his opposition to many environmental regulations puts people in danger by increasing toxins in air and water.
In a statement calling Pruitt “unfit,” the Sierra Club said, “Nothing less than our children’s health is at stake.”
What made Pruitt who he is?
Pruitt was born in Kentucky, but has lived in Oklahoma since law school.
He entered politics in the late 90’s and made it to attorney general by 2012. He quickly went to work on legal challenges against the Obama administration on a range of issues, including, and perhaps especially, its many environmental rules.
Pruitt co-owned a minor league baseball team, according to NPR, and named a pet Winston, after former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill.