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Near-Partisan Vote Confirms Pruitt for EPA, Imperiling Public Health Protections

Republican Leaders Push Through Most Controversial EPA Nominee in History, Ahead of Potential Email Scandal
Contact: 
(202) 939-9140
monica@ewg.org
For Immediate Release: 
Friday, February 17, 2017

“Mr. Pruitt collaborated with fossil fuel polluters on environmental regulations with the same ease General Flynn displayed as he communicated to Russia’s ambassador about election tampering… Mr. Pruitt, you’re not in Oklahoma anymore,” said EWG president, Ken Cook

WASHINGTON – The nation’s drinking water and air, safeguards against pesticides, and oversight of big polluters are at risk with the Senate's approval today of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, despite unanswered questions about his relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

On Thursday an Oklahoma state judge ordered Pruitt, the state's attorney general, to release some 3,000 emails between his office and representatives of oil and gas companies, and other energy interests. The judge ordered compliance with the order by Tuesday, Feb. 21. During an all-night debate on the Senate floor, a number of senators called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to postpone the vote, but McConnell refused, forcing a vote on Pruitt ahead of the looming email revelations. 

Here is a statement from EWG President Ken Cook:

What those emails will reveal about the relationship between Pruitt and the fossil fuel industry is anybody’s guess, but Sen. McConnell decided Americans did not have the right to know before Pruitt becomes the next EPA administrator. Over the past 20 years, the Republican Party has all but abandoned its historic commitment to bipartisan environmental protection. Today’s near party-line vote to confirm Pruitt marks a new low in the GOP’s embrace of an aggressively anti-environment agenda that caters to virtually every polluting industry in America. 

Mr. Pruitt collaborated with fossil fuel polluters on environmental regulations with the same ease General Flynn displayed as he communicated to Russia’s ambassador about election tampering.

There has never been a nominee for EPA administrator opposed so strongly by environmental and public health advocates, scientists, and hundreds of current and former EPA officials. Considering the unprecedented opposition to this nominee and the potential bombshell looming in those emails, the public deserved much better from the Senate. Americans have a right to know: Will Scott Pruitt will be working for them, or will he, in effect, continue working for the fossil fuel industry?

The EPA is used to outside attacks from polluters who, as Pruitt did as attorney general, aggressively sue the agency for daring to protect children and other vulnerable populations from exposure to life-threatening toxic pollution. But for the first time in the history of the EPA, Senate Republicans have installed one of the agency’s most strident opponents to run it – someone who has fought tooth-and-nail against the agency’s public health and environmental safeguards, and who has clearly misled the Senate about his environmental record as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

As Scott Pruitt takes the reins at the EPA, we expect to see an unprecedented assault on public health protections. We will stand with our colleagues in the environmental movement, and the thousands of committed professionals at the EPA, to resist that assault and uphold the right of all Americans to clean air, safe water and a healthy environment.

And a word to Mr. Pruitt: You’re not in Oklahoma anymore.

It is shameful that someone with your anti-environment record and philosophy has been handed the most important environmental job in the world.

But you will not get a free pass to trash America’s air and water as you did in Oklahoma, when you claimed that the interests of polluters were synonymous with the interests of the people of your state.

You will not get a free pass to ignore science or muzzle scientists. You will not slash the EPA budget as you slashed environmental enforcement in Oklahoma – not without a fight.

You will not degrade or subvert the rule of environmental law that represents one of America’s distinctive contributions to the welfare of our planet just to please your polluter cronies, their friends in Congress or their cheerleader in the White House. Why? Because the American people will rise up and fight you every step of the way.

Our nation’s leadership in environmental protection is a prime example of what has made America great again, and again, and again—for decades. We have no intention of standing by while you dismantle that hard-won legacy at the behest of fossil fuels or elected fools.

We aren’t going anywhere, Mr. Pruitt. And you are not in Oklahoma anymore.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore