Environment

More Than 400 Former EPA Officials Urge Senate to Reject Trump's Nominee for the Agency

The former employees are asking for a no-vote because of Scott Pruitt's anti-environmental record.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC

On Monday, more than 400 former EPA officials sent a letter to the U.S. Senate strongly urging a vote against the Trump Administration’s pick to run the agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

“Pruitt’s record and public statements strongly suggest that he does not agree with the underlying principles of our environmental laws,” the 447 former EPA employees, ranging from regional administrators to scientists, attorneys, analysts and others, wrote in the letter. “Pruitt has shown no interest in enforcing environmental laws, a critically important function for EPA.”

In a roll-call vote last week, the Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted 11-0 to endorse Pruitt’s nomination as EPA Administrator, sending it to the full Senate, which is expected to vote soon on the next EPA Administrator.

The Republican action last week overcame a boycott by Democrats on the environment committee, who strongly objected to Pruitt’s poor record. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued EPA a dozen times, frequently attacked the idea of federal action to control pollution, and took few if any actions as Oklahoma Attorney General to enforce environmental laws in his own state.

While serving as the Oklahoma’s top law enforcement officer, Pruitt shut down the Attorney General’s Office Environmental Protection Unit. His office issued more than 50 press releases celebrating his lawsuits to overturn EPA standards to limit mercury emissions from power plants, reduce smog levels in cities and regional haze in parks, clean up the Chesapeake Bay and control greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, none of Pruitt’s 714 press releases over six years refer to any action he has ever taken to enforce environmental laws or to actually reduce pollution.

“This track record likely reflects his disturbing decision to close the environmental enforcement unit in his office while establishing a new litigation team to challenge EPA and other federal agencies,” the former EPA employees wrote in the letter, which was sent by the Environmental Integrity Project to all U.S. Senators.

More than 90 percent of the people who signed the letter were not political appointees, but long-term career employees who served under multiple administrations, both Republican and Democratic.

Democrats in the Senate have objected not only to Pruitt’s poor environmental record, but also his failure to provide information in response to questions.  For example, Pruitt’s office has acknowledged 3,000 emails and other documents reflecting communications with certain oil and gas companies, but has yet to make any of these available in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed more than two years ago.

The letter opposing Pruitt was circulated among former EPA employees by the Environmental Integrity Project, a 15-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by former EPA officials to advocate for the enforcement of environmental laws and protect public health.

The letter is available at: www.environmentalintegrity.org.

Tom Pelton is the director of communications for the Environmental Integrity Project

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