Scott Pruitt, Trump's pick to lead EPA

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Trump picks prominent climate skeptic as EPA chief

President-elect Donald Trump is poised to name Scott Pruitt, a prominent skeptic of climate science and an ardent foe of government action on climate change, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to media reports. Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, has been a leading architect of legal opposition to President Barack Obama’s climate and environmental policies.

“Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time,” Pruitt and Luther Strange, the attorney general of Alabama, wrote in a May opinion piece in National Review, criticizing plans by some state attorneys general to investigate fossil fuel companies. “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. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”

Not surprisingly, environmental groups have offered dim views of Pruitt’s record since his name surfaced as a possible candidate for the EPA job. “Attorney General Pruitt has apparently never seen an EPA rule that didn’t prompt him to run to court to have it blocked,” Keith Gaby of the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, D.C., wrote in late November.  “Since becoming Oklahoma’s top legal officer in 2011, Pruitt has sued the EPA to stop vital protections for public health—including standards for reducing soot and smog pollution that crosses interstate lines; protections against emissions of mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other toxic pollutants from power plants; and standards to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas. Each time he failed.”

If confirmed by the Senate to be EPA administrator, Pruitt would be in a much stronger position to block or rewrite regulations the Trump administration found objectionable, although environmental groups have already promised to challenge such efforts in court.