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Trump’s EPA nominee has spent years fighting environmental regulations

Scott Pruitt led the movement to block government rules regulating power plants

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt gestures as he answers a question during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. Pruitt and the attorney generals of 11 other states filed a lawsuit seeking documents involving the Environmental Protection Agency's legal strategy with environmental groups. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

During legal proceedings where corporations challenge government regulations, it’s common for a state’s attorney general to side in favor of the existing rules, instead of siding with the plaintiffs. That’s not the case with Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, and environmental regulations. Pruitt, now President-elect Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, proactively filed lawsuits—alongside private-sector entities—against the Obama administration, challenging the Clean Air Act.

Those legal actions, as well as his close ties to the energy lobby—the chief executive of Continental Energy Group co-chaired Pruitt’s AG re-election campaign in 2013—have angered and alarmed environmentalists. Pruitt’s nomination recalls Trump’s past statements about climate change being a “hoax”—despite, even, a well-publicized meeting on Monday with Al Gore.

The conservative Pruitt has been a dogged foe of Obama-era regulations, including the now-in-contention bid to increase overtime pay and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. But he’s been especially active and vociferous over environmental regulations. Pruitt has labeled the Clean Power Plan “an unlawful attempt to expand federal bureaucrats’ authority over states’ energy economies in order to shutter coal-fired power plants and eventually other sources of fossil-fuel generated electricity.”

He also wrote that the climate change debate is “far from settled” in an article for the National Review earlier this year, adding, “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” For further indication of Pruitt’s feelings on the EPA, look no further than his LinkedIn bio: His official profile clearly states that he’s a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

The reaction has been swift in more liberal quarters. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, the country’s oldest grassroots environmental organization, weighed in: “Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the US Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”

Pruitt’s appointment and potential confirmation may be further impetus for cities to take on tackling climate change going forward.