Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed as EPA Head

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Scott Pruitt, a skeptic of human-caused climate change and critic of environmental regulations, is expected to begin dismantling Obama-era climate regulations pending executive orders from President Trump.

By Kate Wheeling

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(Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

On Friday, the Senate voted to confirm Scott Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, by a vote of 52 to 46.

Pruitt, who has sued the agency he will now lead more than a dozen times, is an apt choice for Republicans, who have long wanted to defang (and, at worst, dismantle) the EPA. But Pruitt will face significant opposition from organization insiders. In an unprecedented turn of events, EPA employees spent the days before the vote calling senators to try to block Pruitt’s confirmation, the New York Times reported.

“It is rare. I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this,” James A. Thurber, the director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, told the Times.

Democrats have long expressed concerns over Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry. In 2011, for example, Pruitt’s office signed a letter to the EPA written by lawyers for the natural gas company Devon Energy, accusing the agency of overestimating pollution from gas wells. Democrats tried to delay the vote after a federal judge ruled on Thursday that the Oklahoma attorney general’s office had to release thousands of emails between the new EPA head and oil and gas companies. CNN reports:

Environmental activists and many Democrats wanted to delay the confirmation vote until those emails are released — probably sometime next week — but Republicans had no interest in a delay, especially after Democrats deliberately slow-walked the confirmation process for many of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

Pruitt, a skeptic of human-caused climate change and critic of environmental regulations, has said that his lawsuits against the EPA were in the interest of Oklahoma citizens—rather than the fossil fuel companies themselves—given the role of oil and gas for the state’s economy. Trump is expected to issue multiple executive orders after Pruitt is sworn in allowing the EPA head to begin undoing the Obama administration’s climate change regulations.

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