What you need to know about Scott Pruitt

Sunday , March 19, 2017 - 12:00 AM

By LANEY BAUMANN
TX. Correspondent

Many of Donald Trump’s picks for his cabinet have been extremely controversial, and his pick for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency has been one of the most controversial of them all.

Scott Pruitt, formerly Oklahoma’s attorney general, was confirmed as head of the EPA on Feb. 17 after nearly a month of confirmation hearings. Environmental advocates, everyday citizens and even influential political figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Jeff Merkley have expressed concerns about Pruitt’s ability to run the EPA based on his history of lawsuits and comments against the agency.

Pruitt is infamous for his multiple lawsuits against the EPA during his time as Oklahoma attorney general. Business Insider reports that Pruitt has filed a total of 14 lawsuits against the agency, including an ongoing case suing the EPA for government overreach because of a Clean Power Plan that President Obama signed into law in February of 2016.

The worry is that Pruitt’s conflicts of interest regarding the EPA will affect his ability to effectively run the agency; however, many Republicans believe that Pruitt’s opposition to the EPA is just what the agency needs. Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch said, “(Pruitt) has consistently fought against federal intrusion. ... The EPA must accept the limits of federal power.”

As well as the lawsuits, Pruitt has also clearly stated his disbelief in climate change, which worries people that he will work to undo actions the EPA has taken against climate change. When being questioned by Sanders during a confirmation hearing, Pruitt claimed that he believed President Trump was wrong in saying that climate change was a hoax, but Pruitt also said that his personal beliefs about climate change were “immaterial” when it comes to running the agency.

On Feb. 22, only days after Pruitt’s confirmation, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office released more than 7,500 court-ordered pages of emails Pruitt sent and received during his time as attorney general. Hundreds of these emails have shown that he had close ties to the fossil fuel, oil and energy industries.

One chain of emails show that American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), a lobby group for oil and gas, coordinated with Pruitt in 2013 to oppose the Renewable Fuel Standard Program and ozone limits. AFPM pursued its own case against the regulations, but later that year, Pruitt also filed a case suing the EPA over the same thing and used similar language to that in the emails.

This worries many Democrats and environmentalists because close ties with oil can often equal a disregard for the well-being of the environment. Republicans, on the other hand, believe that these ties with oil and gas will ensure that the government won’t overreach into those industries. You can find the emails on the Center for Media and Democracy’s website.

Citizens and environmentalists aren't the only ones concerned about Pruitt’s position as head of the EPA. On Feb. 1, Senate Democrats boycotted a scheduled vote on Pruitt, claiming that he had failed to answer important questions asked during his hearings. Many Republican senators, such as West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, said they were disappointed by the boycott.

“Disagreement with a nominee’s position is not a reason to boycott a hearing,” Capito said.

Despite Senate Democrats’ efforts, Pruitt was confirmed as administrator of the EPA Feb. 17 in a 52-46 vote.

When it comes to climate change and the specific things that are affecting the environment, Republicans and Democrats typically have opposing views. Democrats tend to lean more toward believing in current science and in climate change, and Republicans tend to demand more research and further study on the issue.

Regardless of your view on climate change and the environment, it’s important to know the facts about who is leading the agency in charge of those things. Scott Pruitt being the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency is important because the agency itself is important. Whether or not you think Pruitt’s opinions on climate change and/or the EPA are worrisome, it’s vital to be informed about anyone directing an important governmental department.

Laney Baumann is a junior at Syracuse High School who loves reading, writing and music. Email her at laneybaumann9@gmail.com.

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