Oklahoma Attorney General (AG) Scott Pruitt, considered an ally to the fossil fuel industry -- and a longtime critic of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its alleged regulatory overreach -- has been selected by President-elect Trump to lead the agency.
According to reports, Pruitt met with Trump in New York City on Wednesday. A source within the Trump transition team said the president-elect will nominate 48-year-old Pruitt, a Republican who was first elected AG in November 2010.
During his tenure as AG, Oklahoma became one of at least 27 states to sue the EPA over its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP). The states argue that the plan amounts to regulatory overreach by the EPA. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in the case State of West Virginia et al v. EPA et al last September [15-1363].
"It's an excellent choice," Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma told NGI on Wednesday. "He has been very aggressive on pushing back on regulatory overreach from EPA. He really gets the fact that states are successfully regulating air and water quality, and that EPA's role is not to be overbearing but to be supporting state departments of environmental quality. That's a positive a sign that the balance can be reordered back to states with EPA supporting.
"The EPA has just gotten to be such an overlord. It's gone far beyond reasonable regulatory oversight and is using its power to control states and private industry. With the Clean Power Plan and climate change, [EPA] is basically trying to regulate almost every aspect of Americans' lives. It's a much needed reorientation."
Bracewell LLP’s Scott Segal, head of the policy resolution group, also praised Trump's selection of Pruitt.
"I have watched Scott Pruitt develop over his six years as Oklahoma AG into a measured and articulate student of environmental law and policy," Segal said. "The office he headed was present and accounted for in the battle to keep EPA faithful to its statutory authority and respectful of the role of the states in our system of cooperative federalism.
"These skills will serve him well not only in leading EPA but also in participating meaningfully in the legislative and regulatory reform efforts promised by the next administration. Given that we are almost two decades overdue for an overhaul of the Clean Air Act, there is interest on both sides of the aisle to look at that statute in particular."
Energy & Environment Legal Institute President Craig Richardson called Pruitt's appointment "reassuring" because of his background in state government. Hailing from Oklahoma, an important energy producer, is an added bonus.
"We encourage Mr. Pruitt to gear up for battle since draining the EPA swamp will be met with the utmost resistance from an entrenched and well-funded green industrial complex," Richardson said. "We strongly encourage him to add a deputy administrator to his team who has significant EPA experience, who shares the President's vision, and can protect that vision from a hostile agency staff."
Without naming Pruitt specifically, the American Petroleum Institute said its "focus is to work constructively with the new administration and Congress on policies that will benefit American consumers and help our nation continue to lead the world in the production of oil and natural gas while also leading the world in reducing carbon emissions."
Conversely, environmental groups and their supporters blasted Pruitt's nomination.
"This is a deeply flawed nomination that puts America's bedrock clean air and water protections at grave risk," said Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) spokeswoman Heather Shelby. EDF claims that Pruitt has received nearly $315,000 from the fossil fuel industry since 2002. "We deserve an EPA administrator who is guided by science, who respects America's environmental laws, and who values protecting the health and safety of all Americans ahead of the lobbying agenda of special interests. But that's not the kind of EPA administrator President-elect Trump has nominated."
American Rivers President Bob Irvin said the appointment "raises serious alarms for all Americans who value rivers and the clean water they provide...We hope that Senators will carefully scrutinize Mr. Pruitt's record on clean water, climate change, and other environmental issues in deciding whether to confirm him to lead EPA."
New York AG Eric Schneiderman called his counterpart "a dangerous and unqualified choice" to lead the EPA. "As AG, Scott Pruitt consistently failed to uphold his responsibility to protect our nation's air and water, instead acting as an agent of the oil and gas industry -- at the expense of the American people -- every time. The science is clear: climate change -- and the existential threat it poses to all Americans -- is real. Yet as AG, Mr. Pruitt not only denied the existence of climate change, but took steps to accelerate its devastating effects on Americans."
Pruitt served as an attorney in private practice for five years before being elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 1998, representing Tulsa and Wagoner counties. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK) in 2001, coming in third place in a special election that year. He was also defeated in his campaign for lieutenant governor in 2006.
According to Pruitt's profile on LinkedIn, a business and employment-oriented social networking site, he was elected to serve as Republican Whip in the Oklahoma State Senate from 2001-2003, and was Republican Assistant Floor Leader from 2003-2006.
Pruitt also has ties to Continental Resources Inc. CEO Harold Hamm. The billionaire, who served as energy adviser to Trump during his campaign for the White House, reportedly led Pruitt's re-election campaign for AG in 2014.