Senate approves Pruitt for EPA
The Senate on Feb. 17 confirmed President Donald Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general, for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The vote was 52 to 46.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced that she would vote against Pruitt, and Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana announced that they would vote for him.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm groups strongly backed Pruitt, who is expected to reduce or at least not expand environmental regulation on farms. Environmental groups opposed him.
The Senate went ahead with the vote even though an Oklahoma district court on Feb. 16 ordered the Oklahoma attorney general’s office to begin releasing Pruitt’s email communications with oil, gas, coal and utility officials.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committtee ranking member Tom Carper, D-Del., said the Senate vote should be postponed.
“Since the start of Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation process, I, along with my EPW colleagues, have made entirely reasonable requests of this nominee so that we could offer our advice and consent in good conscience,” Carper said in a statement.
“We simply want the truth with regard to Mr. Pruitt’s record. But, time after time, we received little but incomplete and often misleading responses from this nominee. When we made requests for pertinent public documents, we were told to go to the back of a two-year long line and wait our turn. Mr. Pruitt has stonewalled us for two months and the public for more than two years,” Carper said.
“Despite my repeated warnings, the majority insists on forcing Mr. Pruitt through the Senate without complete information. It is regrettable that they refuse to wait for the release of these documents before voting on Mr. Pruitt’s nomination.
“But today’s ruling should finally give my Republican colleagues pause. A judge in Oklahoma has seen enough to determine that the public should have access to these documents. It would be wholly irresponsible to vote on this nominee this week knowing that we don’t have the full picture,” Carper said.
“If we are going to do the job that the American people sent us here to do, we must carefully review this new information in order to better evaluate just what kind of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt would be.”
After the vote, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., praised the Pruitt confirmation.
“For the past eight years, the EPA has imposed a score of regulations that have impeded job creation, constrained the nation’s economy and impacted our state’s core industries, agriculture and energy,” Hoeven said in a statement.
“Scott Pruitt understands environmental law and recognizes that no one has a greater vested interest in preserving the environment than the states and the people who live and work on the land. I’m confident that he will partner with North Dakota and states across the nation to find the best approach to protecting our land, air and water without compromising our economy.”
Hoeven noted he has been working to rescind the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, and said he would continue this effort with Pruitt, who represented Oklahoma in a coalition of 31 states that obtained a judicial stay of the rule
In his role on the Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to prevent the EPA from implementing the rule in 2016 and 2017, and with the new Congress and administration, he said he believes the rule can now be rescinded permanently.
The Renewable Fuels Association also congratulated Pruitt, and noted he said at his confirmation hearing that “to honor the intent and the expression of the Renewable Fuel Standard statute is very, very important.”
“We look forward to working with Mr. Pruitt to ensure the RFS remains on track with strong, annual obligations that follow congressional intent,” RFA said.
“While the RFS remains our priority, we will also continue advocating for the removal of unnecessary volatility restrictions that have discouraged market acceptance of higher level ethanol blends like E15.”
“America’s ethanol producers and supporters were instrumental in helping bring President Trump into the White House and are counting on his leadership to protect home-grown domestic energy security,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.
“We are confident that Administrator Pruitt and his team recognize the important role the ethanol industry plays in supporting American jobs, fostering a vibrant rural economy, and giving American consumers access to 21st century fuels for their 21st century vehicles.”
Meanwhile, the Center for Biological Diversity issued a strong statement against the confirmation.
“Pruitt will be the worst, most dangerous administrator in EPA history,” Executive Director Kierán Suckling said in a statement.
“We will fight him in the courts and in the streets every time he tries to take us backward. Since the Senate failed to do its job, we will watch Pruitt like a hawk and relentlessly oppose every dangerous action he takes to harm our environment.”