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Who Is Scott Pruitt? Donald Trump's EPA Nominee Is Climate Change Sceptic

'The Environmental Protection Agency is about to stop protecting the environment'.

08/12/2016 15:06 | Updated 09 December 2016

President-elect Donald Trump made one of his most controversial political nominations on Wednesday when he picked climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt to serve as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Oklahoma Attorney General is not only a vocal critics of the EPA, but he is currently suing the very organisation he has been put forward to manage.

His nomination has been described as “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires”, with some warning “the whole country is in danger”.

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Here are eight things you need to know about Scott Pruitt:

1. He is currently suing the EPA

Pruitt is part of a legal action launched by 28 US states against the EPA in a bid to halt the Clean Power Plan.

As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt is challenging the Obama administration’s most sweeping climate change policy, which seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Scientific experts say the plan is necessary to reduce climate change “and prevent worse from occurring”

Pruitt’s LinkedIn biography boasts that he is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda”.

Chris O'Meara/AP

2. He has close ties with the fossil fuel industry

An investigation by the New York Times revealed Pruitt sent correspondence to the EPA drafted by one of the largest gas and oil companies in Oklahoma.

The letter, drafted by Devon Energy’s lawyers, accused federal regulators of grossly overestimating the scale of air pollution cause by energy companies drilling natural gas wells.

Such connections suggested an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” between the Attorney General and energy producers.

Pruitt has brought in nearly $325,000 in donations from the natural resources energy sector, the National Institute on Money In State Politics database shows.

Furthermore, oil and gas tycoon Harold Hamm from Oklahoma also led Pruitt’s 2013 re-election campaign

Environmentalists have lambasted Trump’s decision.

“It’s often said that personnel is policy, and President-elect Trump’s decision to nominate someone who has spent his career catering to Big Polluters speaks volumes,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said in a statement.

“All people in this country have a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy the economic and health benefits of the clean energy revolution, and it’s vitally important that we have an EPA administrator who respects those rights.”

Sue Ogrocki/AP
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been put forward by Donald Trump as the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

 3. He is a sceptic on the causes of climate change

Pruitt has cast doubt on whether human activity is causing the planet to warm - despite 97% of the scientific community agreeing humans are responsible for climate change.

“That debate is far from settled,” he told the National Review.

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” 

Former adverser to Barack Obama, Dan Pfeiffer, even went as far to call the idea of Pruitt at the EPA an “existential threat to the planet”.

4. He doesn’t believe in clean waterways

Pruitt has been one of the lead critics of Obama’s Clean Water Rule which looks to increase the number of protected streams and wetlands.

Pruitt also sued the EPA over its redefinition of what waters the federal government has the authority to protect under the Clean Water Act, Forbes reports.

Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy organisation, said Pruitt could be the “most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history”, the New York Times reports.

5. He’s woefully lacking in experience 

The current head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, has a masters degree in environmental health engineering and planning and policy. She also has substantial experience working on environmental issues at state and local levels.

Gary Cameron / Reuters
Gina McCarthy, administrator of the EPA. 

A longtime civil servant, McCarthy was at the EPA since 2009 before she was selected as administrator in 2013.

Before that she was at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. While there she implemented a regional policy to trade carbon credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

In comparison, Pruitt has a degree in political science and communications before going on to pursue a career in law and then politics.

6. His nomination is causing a lot of concern

Understandably, Pruitt’s nomination has upset and angered many people.

The idea of putting him in charge of the EPA has been likened to “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires”.

And others have warned “the whole country is in danger”.

 7. He tried to fight for chickens to be kept in cages

Pruitt joined a lawsuit which targeted California’s prohibition on the sale of eggs laid by caged hens kept in conditions more restrictive than those approved by California voters.

Oklahoma was one of six states to challenge California law, but the case was dismissed when the states “failed to show how the law would affect them”.

liubomirt via Getty Images
Pruitt joined a lawsuit which targeted California’s prohibition on the sale of eggs laid by caged hens (file image).

8. He really doesn’t like the EPA

Pruitt doesn’t agree with the concept of a federal environmental protection agency itself.

“Congress has spoken very specifically, very prescriptively, particularly in the environmental space with respect to state implementation plans and under the Clean Air Act, and you see this EPA, and you see regulatory bodies at the federal level displacing that, or duplicating state power,” Pruitt said at the Manhattan Institute last year.

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