Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has spent years railing against and suing the federal government. Now he’s going to join it.
Continuing his string of ironic cabinet picks, President-elect Donald Trump named Pruitt Wednesday to lead the EPA.
Pruitt’s close relationship with the energy industry drew the most fire.
“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a news release.
“He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections.”
Pruitt probably wouldn’t disagree with the spirit of that comment. His own bio claims he’s the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was also, predictably, not enthusiastic.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 7, 2016
“Attorney General Pruitt’s reluctance to accept the facts or science on climate change couldn’t make him any more out of touch with the American people – and with reality,” Schumer told the Associated Press.
The New York Times greeted the news this way: “Trump picks Scott Pruitt, climate change denialist, to lead the EPA.”
Other media outlets had positive-leaning stories about the choice, including The Oklahoman: “Trump, Fallin applaud Scott Pruitt EPA appointment.”
Fallin issued a news release Thursday calling Pruitt “a tireless advocate of the precious balance of power between state and federal governments.”
“I applaud President-elect Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA. He will ensure states retain their decision-making policies, instead of having them transferred to the federal government.”
It’s interesting to see politicians such as Pruitt clamoring for the right to give away their authority, when they get it, to the states.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe had perhaps the most interesting positive reaction to the choice, claiming that Pruitt “has demonstrated that he is an expert on environmental laws … and a natural pick for this role.”
Inhofe has been a happy warrior against attempts to deal with global warming, once bringing a snowball into the Senate chambers as proof that it wasn’t happening. Because, hey, it still snows sometimes.
Trump has called global warming a hoax made up “by and for the Chinese.”
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
In Pruitt, has chosen an EPA administrator who also casts doubt on the scientific connection but cloaks his words in a more acceptable tone.
In a column in the National Review in May, Pruitt wrote: “Global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind.”
Actually, there’s practically no debate among legitimate (non-industry funded) scientists about this issue: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is occurring and the burning of fossil fuel is the culprit. You can read all about that here.
The Washington Post noted that Pruitt “is the third of Trump’s nominees who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run.”
(Ben Carson, tapped to run the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Betsy DeVos, named education secretary, are the other two.)
As the Post and many other media outlets pointed out, Pruitt is fond of suing the agency he’s been chosen to lead.
Records show Pruitt has been involved in more than a dozen actions of some kind targeting various EPA policies, including being a petitioner, co-petitioner or intervenor in at least six lawsuits against the agency.
A release from Trump’s transition team called Pruitt “an expert in Constitutional law.”
Pruitt had a relatively short career as an attorney in Oklahoma before joining the state senate and becoming attorney general. While Pruitt has signed his name to a number of federal lawsuits, some that involve constitutional issues, this claim is a stretch.
In fact, as BuzzFeed’s Chris McDaniel reported, Pruitt’s office misled the nation’s highest court about evidence in a case of clearly constitutional significance: the death penalty. He later said the error was not intentional and didn’t matter anyway.
While the Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma’s right to use a new lethal drug as part of its death penalty process in that case — Glossip v. Gross — it was a bumpy ride for Pruitt.
During arguments before the court last year, Pruitt’s solicitor general argued that the state was perfectly capable of carrying out an execution that complied with the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
During the hearing, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor said she would not believe the statements contained in Oklahoma’s brief unless she verified them herself.
“Nothing you say or read to me am I going to believe frankly until I see it with my own eyes,” she said. She later said the state’s experts on midazolam “didn’t prove their point at all.”
In fact, as The Oklahoman’s Graham Brewer reported, Oklahoma had already used the wrong drug (a substitute not in the state’s approved lethal protocol) to execute a prisoner months before those arguments.
Months after the hearing, the state almost used the same wrong drug a second time to execute Richard Glossip.
Richard Glossip had eaten his last meal and was watching television news to figure out why he wasn’t dead yet. https://t.co/1IpSPEBTyi
— Ziva Branstetter (@ZivaBranstetter) September 30, 2015
Pruitt claimed he didn’t know that DOC had obtained the wrong drug. But as the state’s top lawyer and a purported constitutional scholar, it’s reasonable to ask whether Pruitt should have known about this snafu both times.
Be sure to grab some popcorn and watch the confirmation hearings.