Pruitt Taps Former Oil Company PR Flack, Creator of ‘Lock Her Up’ Chant to Run EPA’s Calif. Office
SAN FRANCISCO – The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office is a former spokesman for a California oil company that has a long record of environmental violations. He is best known for starting the “lock her up” movement against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
On Friday, May 18, EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced the appointment of Mike Stoker as administrator of EPA’s Region 9 office, which oversees the agency’s work in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii. Stoker was officially sworn in today.
“Other than himself, Scott Pruitt could not have found anyone more unfit to lead the EPA’s important work of protecting the health of millions in the Pacific Southwest than Mike Stoker,” said EWG President Ken Cook, a resident of San Anselmo. “If I was standing blindfolded on Market Street I could find a dozen more qualified and committed people to do the job.”
Stoker originated the anti-Clinton “lock her up” chant in his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He has spent much of his career as an attorney representing agribusiness interests in California and as a spokesperson for Greka Oil & Gas Co., which has a long history of oil spills in the state and was fined $2 million for “countless safety code violations.”
As a Santa Barbara county supervisor in the 1990s, Stoker led what a local journalist called “a take-no-prisoners assault” on the county’s Air Pollution Control District. Nick Welsh of the Santa Barbara Independent said Stoker’s crusade against the agency left it “not just eviscerated but skinned alive.”
Later on, Stoker was chair of the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board in the administration of Gov. Pete Wilson, and he was a deputy California secretary of state in the Gov. Gray Davis administration.
The EPA Region 9 post has been vacant for more than a year, reportedly because potential nominees who fit Pruitt’s anti-environmentalist mold didn’t want to face the scorn of EPA employees in the San Francisco office. According to the Los Angeles Times, neither does Stoker, who has asked to work from a small Los Angeles field office.
The EPA’s press release on the matter quotes a number of Californians in support of Stoker’s appointment, including officials with the California Business Roundtable, the California Chamber of Commerce and agricultural industry groups. But the only environmental organization cited is SOS California, which works to stop the natural seepage of oil onto beaches – not spills from the oil drilling of companies like Greka.
“You’d normally expect a new regional head of the EPA to have support from environmentalists,” said Cook. “That Stoker has almost none, and that he doesn’t even want to face EPA employees who’ve spent their careers protecting public health, speaks volumes about what we can expect from his leadership of Region 9. One thing is for sure: He’s in for a fight.”