Trump’s nominee to lead EPA says human impact on climate change up for debate
During his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Pruitt told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, “science tells us the climate is changing and human activity in some matter impacts that change.”
“The ability to measure and purse the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue,” Pruitt added.
Ironically, Pruitt is the same man who sued the EPA 14 times on behalf of the oil and gas industry over clean water and clean air regulations and had to defend his ties with energy companies during the hearing.
Senator Ed Markey (D, Massachusetts) asked Pruitt whether he agreed with Trump that “global warming was a hoax caused by the Chinese.”
Pruitt replied it wasn’t a hoax.
Markey remarked, “So you Donald Trump is wrong?”
Pruitt: “I don’t think climate change is a hoax.”
Markey stated: “That’s important for the president to hear.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) asked Pruitt, “What is your opinion on the cause of climate change?
Pruitt replied, “My opinion is immaterial.”
Sanders retorted, “Really?? You are going to be head of an agency to protect the environment, and your personal feelings on climate change are immaterial?
Pruitt’s nomination to the EPA, is viewed by many environmental activists as putting a fossil fuel sympathizer in charge of the agency whose rules regulate those same industries for polluting water and the air.
Several committee members asked Pruitt to explain his pursuit of 14 lawsuits challenging environmental protections as Oklahoma Attorney General. Pruitt sued over the EPA’s clean power plan, which seeks to curb carbon emissions from power plants and attempts to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Pruitt was asked if he would recuse himself when those cases came before the EPA. He eventually said he would.
Corey Booker (D-NJ) asked Pruitt why as attorney general, did he only represent the interests of the oil and gas industry in his state over air pollution but did nothing about the interests of 110,000 children suffering from asthma in the state.
Senator Booker said that represented 10 percent of Oklahoma’s population, and “represented the highest asthma rate in the entire United States.”
“If you’ve been writing letters on behalf of polluting industries, how many letters did you write to the EPA on behalf of this health crisis?,” asked Senator Booker. “If this is representative government did you represent those children?”
Pruitt responded by saying, “the state has to have an interest to bring those cases, you don’t just bring a lawsuit if there’s not been standing or some injury to the state of Oklahoma…”
“Injury!" Booker interrupted.
"Clearly asthma triggered and caused by air pollutants, clearly there is an air pollution problem and as you have not brought suits at any of the levels where you represented the industry that is causing the problem is problematic when you are going to be sitting in a position that is going to be affecting nationally this reality,” challenged Booker.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) accused Pruitt of collecting $1 million in “dark money” from anonymous sources to steer his work as Oklahoma attorney general. She said he also received money from energy companies such as ExxonMobil and Devon Energy.
Senator Whitehouse said Americans deserved to “know exactly who he’s working for” if Pruitt is to lead an agency charged with protecting the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans.
Pruitt’s confirmation hearing followed the trend of most of Trump’s cabinet nominees, as protesters gathered outside the room. They said Pruitt is unfit for the EPA because of his cozy relationship with oil and gas industry executives who have donated generously to his political campaigns.
One woman entered the hearing room but was quickly wrestled out by three police officers as she unfurled a roll of yellow crime scene tape and shouted “We don’t want EPA gutted!”
Another activist shouted “Pruitt should not run the EPA!” She left the room before police could escort her out.
Democratic attorneys general of eight states and the District of Columbia urged the US Senate to reject Pruitt’s nomination to run the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the AP.
The letter signed by 9 attorneys general expressed “strong opposition” to Pruitt and said while serving as the Oklahoma Attorney General attacked the same rules the EPA is charged with enforcing.
They also stated that Pruitt tried to block the agency’s enforcement of federal clean air standards.