Politics

Trump’s EPA pick signals shift on climate change

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Trump’s determination to dismantle President Barack Obama’s efforts to counter climate change.

Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”

Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, a 2014 investigation by The New York Times revealed.

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At the heart of Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change are a collection of EPA regulations aimed at forcing power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution. It will not be possible for Trump to unilaterally cancel the rules, which were released under the 1970 Clean Air Act. But it would be possible for a legally experienced EPA chief to substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them.

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As Oklahoma’s top law enforcement official, Pruitt has fought environmental regulations — particularly the climate change rules. Although Obama’s rules were not completed until 2015, Pruitt was one of a handful of attorneys general, along with Greg Abbott of Texas, who began planning as early as 2014 for a coordinated legal effort to fight them. That resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the administration’s rules. A decision on the case is pending in a federal court, but it is widely expected to advance to the Supreme Court.

Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts blasted the decision on Twitter, calling Pruitt a “science-denying, oil-soaked, climate change-causing polluter” ally.

Kellyanne Conway told reporters Tuesday night that Trump and his team are “very accustomed to the naysayers and the critics.”

“Attorney General Pruitt has great qualifications and a good record as AG of Oklahoma and there were a number of qualified candidates for that particular position that the president-elect interviewed,” she said, according to a pool report. “We look forward to the confirmation hearings.”