Trump’s EPA Pick Hides Pro-Polluter Record Behind Process Jargon
By Philip Newell
Scott Pruitt, Trump‘s nominee for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, had his confirmation hearing Wednesday. What follows is a blow-by-blow account of the event.
5 Things You Need to Know Trump's EPA Pick Scott Pruitt https://t.co/gASl3w4OuE @HuffPostGreen @greenpeaceusa
— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) January 7, 2017
In the morning, there were reports of people paid to stand in line to keep protesters out and as the hearing started, Standing Rock protesters were arrested outside the room. We hoped senators would be just as willing to stand up to #PollutingPruitt.
Sen. Barrasso, introducing Pruitt, praised his supposed efforts to fight polluters. But the only specific action Barrasso could name was the oil clean-up “double dipping” issue. He didn’t list other environmental protection actions from Pruitt because … well, of 700 press releases from Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma AG, zero involved actions to protect the environment.
Delaware’s Sen. Tom Carper gave a quick history lesson about the importance of the EPA, the old “burning rivers, smoggy cities” bit about how bad pollution was in the days before the EPA. In addition to sea level rise already flooding parking lots in Delaware, how fishing now comes with a mercury warning and the lead-laden troubles of Flint, Michigan, Carper focused on cross-state pollution. It’s a not-so-subtle warning of things to come under Pruitt, whose states-first approach wouldn’t be sufficient to handle interstate pollution.
Carper concluded with a “damning statement” from former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, hoping that today’s event can prove her wrong.
Sen. Inhofe was next to speak and Barrasso praised him. (No mention of the infamous snowball). With his mild drawl and heavy rasp, Inhofe followed Barrasso’s lead and heaped praise on Pruitt’s protection of polluter profits. “He’s a hero of the scenic rivers,” Inhofe (falsely) said before being interrupted by a protester shouting as she was removed. According to MoJo’s Rebecca Leber, the protesters were “unlike anything I saw at Tillerson’s” hearing.
Inhofe took a moment to attack the outgoing administration as radical—one that at least 60 percent of Americans agree with. In the same breath, he praised the fossil fuel industry as protectors of the environment.
In his opening statement, Pruitt admitted, like other cabinet nominations, that the climate is changing and humans play some role. But of course, he stopped short of accepting the consensus and falls back to the now common position that the extent to which we’re changing the climate and what should be done about it remain questions for debate.
Now on to the questions. Sen. Carper quoted Donald Trump’s statements about dismantling the EPA. Will the things Trump have said “just go away” under Pruitt? Given Pruitt’s dismantling of the environment unit in the attorney general office and the lack of answers to questions given in advance of the hearing, Carper justified the concerns of the protesters faintly heard outside.
On mercury, Carper tried to get a yes or no answer as to whether Pruitt’s lawsuits that have opposed the mercury regulation do so because they oppose the fact that mercury is … well … bad. Pruitt tried to dodge the question but Carper didn’t let him, continuing to nail him on the issue. Pruitt admited, eventually, that mercury is something the EPA should regulate.
As Inhofe took the floor, scientists declared 2016 the hottest year on record.
"It's Official: 2016 Was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded" via @ClimateNexus/@EcoWatch: https://t.co/meonGdUrDY
— Prof Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) January 18, 2017
Moving on, Inhofe tossed Pruitt a couple of softballs regarding water negotiations Pruitt has led.
Next it was Sen. Whitehouse’s turn. He got right into it—”The oceans off of our state are warming, due to fossil-fuel-driven climate change … I see nothing in your career to suggest you care one bit about” protecting those hurt by warming. He then brought out a poster of the main industries who have funded Pruitt and his groups. Pruitt said he wasn’t sure if they maxed out contributions or even if they’ve contributed at all. Whitehouse educated him a little about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) received from the fossil fuel industry under Pruitt’s leadership.
But did he solicit any of that funding? Pruitt’s “unable to confirm” that funding and refused to directly answer if he solicited money. Pruitt said he didn’t ask for money from Koch, Devon or Exxon, at least not “on behalf of RAGA.”
Sen. Whitehouse pointed out that Pruitt declared no conflicts of interest, yet had not disclosed any of his solicitations for his “Rule of Law Defense Fund.” Will Pruitt disclose his role in raising funds for it? Pruitt demurred and passed the buck before defending himself by pointing out he’s suing Exxon. (Again, this is the double-dipping case, which as Whitehouse pointed out “has nothing to do with the environment.”)
Without directly addressing Pruitt’s conflicts of interest, Barrasso introduced a Wall Street Journal story about Hillary Clinton raising more fossil fuel funds than Trump and a Politico story that quoted someone alleging that Pruitt’s problems are actually a “fishing expedition” led by those with funding from “far left” groups … This pattern of Pruitt dodging tough questions then being defended by Barrasso continued throughout the day.
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin’s turn brought us to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, with the senator asking Pruitt if he’d support the federal role in the plan that he sued to stop. Pruitt, as he did throughout the day, talked about legal precedent and process instead of environmental protection. He said he would commit to supporting the policy now, though, which he praised as being what these things are supposed to look like.
Cardin then turned to drinking water, asking if Pruitt believed there is any safe level of lead in water, particularly for the young? Pruitt said he hasn’t “looked at the scientific research” and would be “concerned” about any level of lead. The fact that the potential head of the EPA doesn’t already know there’s no safe level of lead is one of many concerning issues to come up throughout the day.
When specifically asked about Flint, Pruitt said that more should have been done by the EPA and done more quickly, since it was an emergency situation. Cardin pointed out that Pruitt has participated in “several lawsuits” about how local agencies should have been in charge and Pruitt confirms that there is a role for the EPA to play.
At 11:06 a.m., it was Republican Sen. Deb Fischer from Nebraska’s turn. Her question started by listing how her state’s been “really affected” by EPA’s actions.
Next, Democrat Jeff Merkley. Merkley flat out asked if Pruitt’s aware of methane’s global warming potential. Pruitt said yes. How concerned is he, on a 1–10 scale? Pruitt is concerned, though not “highly” concerned.
Pruitt refuses to acknowledge that all but 37 of the thousand-some words in a letter to the EPA about the methane rule were written by Devon Energy, but defends it. “Did you copy the letter virtually word for word?” Merkley takes Pruitt’s dodging as an affirmative.
“You used your office as a direct extension of a company,” Merkley stated plainly. Then he asks, “do you acknowledge you presented a private oil company’s position and not that of the people?” “I disagree,” Pruitt responded, laying out his standard talking point about how the industry is his constituency. Merkley hammered him on it. Pruitt retreated to process and cost-benefit analysis language. Pruitt claimed to have consulted with other regulators on the issue, Merkley asked for the details to prove it.
“Why do you need an outside oil company to draft a letter for you when you have 250 employees?” Merkley asked as he runs out of time. Barrasso offered some time so Pruitt can answer. Pruitt claimed that the Devon Energy letter wasn’t particular to Devon, but to the industry as a whole.
Republican Jerry Moran from Kansas lessened the tension with a softball about WOTUS, accusing the EPA of going it alone on the issue.
New Jersey’s Cory Booker’s turn brought us back to real questions. Pruitt’s record of 14 lawsuits against the EPA, challenging clean air and clean water rules, are entered into the record. Booker rattled off Pruitt’s opposition to various regulations to make sure Pruitt is familiar with them and his record of siding with polluting industries against the EPA.
Booker finally got to his question: “Do you know how many kids in Oklahoma, roughly, have asthma?” “I do not, senator.” Booker points out that more than 111,000, more than 1 in 10 kids in Oklahoma have asthma—one of the highest rates in the country. How many letters has Pruitt sent on those children’s behalf?
“Did you let any of those children write letters on your letterhead?” (With rhetoric like this, no wonder people are speculating about a Booker 2020 presidential run).
Pruitt avoided the question as Booker’s time ended.
Barrasso submited multiple opinions from Oklahoma praising Pruitt to the record. He then pointed out that Obama’s EPA administrators sued the EPA during the George W. Bush administration—though likely they weren’t acting on industry’s behalf, but to get the EPA to act.
Sen. Rounds, a Republican from Wyoming, continued the pattern of GOP senators asking Pruitt to finish defending himself. This time it was in reference to cross-state pollution, which was brought up as a side-note by Booker. Pruitt believes it’s an important statute EPA should enforce, a statement belied by his litigation to the contrary.
After some softballs from Rounds, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey (D) asked Pruitt if he believes climate change is a hoax, like Trump. Pruitt does not.
With that on the record, Markey moved to the eight ongoing lawsuits Pruitt has against the EPA. Pruitt’s said he would recuse himself from these issues for one year as mandated by law. But will he recused himself not just for one year, “but for the entirety of the time you’re administrator of the EPA?” Channeling his inner Rick Perry, Pruitt danced around the question, but when pressed by Markey, he took the Tillerson route and pointed to the ethical council as the decision maker on the issue.
Markey insisted that Pruitt should unequivocally recuse himself from anything dealing with the lawsuits he’s filed. If not, it will be “a fundamental conflict of interest.” Markey hit Pruitt with a quote sure to end up in the coverage: “It’s not just the fox guarding the henhouse, it’s the fox destroying the henhouse.”
To sooth the pain from that burn and defend Pruitt, Barrasso read from a letter from the Office of Government Ethics which said Pruitt’s in compliance with the conflict of interest rules.
Then it was time for Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa. She jumped into the ethanol issue, a big deal for her farm state. Pruitt responded to a question about the Renewable Fuel Standard with “process” and free market language but ultimately commited to the RFS, sort of. This issue will return…
Then Ernst told Pruitt that her constituents feel like the EPA is out to get them, particularly on the WOTUS rule. How would he help the EPA regain trust? (Trust that in reality, was never actually lost…)
Pruitt answered with his well-rehearsed “grow the economy, protect environment, cooperative federalism” spiel.
Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth asked about the RFS too, particularly Pruitt’s siding with fossil fuel companies that “slammed” the RFS. Which position does he actually take, the “nice sounding, but ultimately vague” one he’s made here to placate Ernst and herself or the anti-RFS one he took with fossil fuel companies? “Which specific actions has EPA taken since 2007 while administering the RFS that is not keeping with congressional intent?” Pruitt failed to give a satisfactory answer and Duckworth slamed his doublespeak for leaving opposition open as an option.
Duckworth finished her time nailing Pruitt on the need for biofuels, pointing out that she’s “already been to a war for oil in the Middle East” so Pruitt’s potential opposition to corn-based fuels troubles her.
Barrasso rode to the rescue again, introducing into the record a letter from the American Farm Bureau and a former Arkansas AG.
Arkansas Republican John Boozman was up next, with an EPA-critical softball about “coercive federalism” and restoring “cooperative federalism” that would cede EPA authority to the states. How would Pruitt change the EPA-state dynamic? More niceties from Pruitt before Boozman accused the EPA of operating on “political ideology” instead of “sound science.” Can we expect the EPA to be more transparent under Pruitt? (Who has obfuscated on his fossil fuel funding earlier today in response to Sen. Whitehouse?)
Pruitt’s responded that there’s a reason you study the impact of rules and regulations on “all Americans” and more lip service to process and transparency.
New California Senator and former AG Kamala Harris got technical about whether or not Pruitt has acted independently (as opposed to acting in response to a request). She asked about Pruitt’s batting average on his lawsuits against the EPA- Pruitt guessing his success rate is around .300. Her calculations are more around .142…
Does Pruitt have the discretion to recuse himself from cases he’s involved with? Pruitt, after significant badgering, finally admited he has the discretion, setting up further questions about whether or not he’d exercise that discretion if not explicitly instructed to do so. But Harris changed tack to the fuel efficiency standards and California’s authority to do so independently of the EPA. Will he uphold that standard? He’ll review it, Pruitt responded, not knowing his intention. She considered that lack of commitment “unacceptable.”
Harris continued by asking if Pruitt can “name a few instances that you have filed a lawsuit against a corporate entity?” He names one, the poultry farming case. But that was hardly something for him to brag about, considering his predecessor filed the case and when Pruitt came in, he “put on the brakes.”
Barrasso ends Harris’s time, introducing a letter that initially sounding like it was from Mr. Strong, an Oklahoma retiree and vice-chair of the Oklahoma Sierra Club chapter, which praised Pruitt. It’s unclear what that letter really was, because Sierra Club’s Oklahoma chapter president very clearly opposes Pruitt.
Back to Republican fluff questions, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan aksed yet another question about regaining trust in the EPA and “cooperative federalism.” “Did you come up with that?” Sullivan asked, using this valuable time to let Pruitt explain Civics 101 and the separation of powers.
Then Sullivan really turned up the heat with an incredibly hard-hitting pair of questions: “Do you care about Oklahoma’s children?” and “Do you care about the environment?” Pruitt said of course to the first and repeated the process language for the second. Sullivan defended the oil industry, citing the American Petroleum Institute’s job figures for Oklahoma. About the gas station attendants and oil drillers, Sullivan asked, “Are these people bad actors?” “Are they evil people?”
At this point the C-Span stream asked if I’m still watching and forces a reload, so sadly I can not report whether or not Pruitt believed the fossil fuel industry he so consistently defends is evil.
When the stream returns, New York’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was talking about Hurricane Sandy. Does Pruitt believe sea levels are rising?
.@SenGillibrand – thank you for defending our right to a healthy future in #PollutingPruitt’s hearing! https://t.co/Tq2pvk3551
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) January 18, 2017
Pruitt acknowledged that the EPA has obligations to address the CO2 issue, but has to follow the process. Gillibrand goes back to the details of sea level rise, “because lives are at stake.” Turning to his record of lawsuits defending businesses and not protecting people, she asked about mercury.
What does Pruitt think should be done? He reaffirmed that the EPA should regulate it, but should follow the “cost-benefit obligations.” Again, this reaffirms that hiding behind process-jargon is Pruitt’s go-to answer for dodging questions about human health.
After Pruitt’s weaving, Sen. Carper introduced into the record the fact that the only example Pruitt could give of defending the public against polluters, his egg case, was started by his predecessor.
Barrasso responded by citing the Cornwall Alliance, a climate change denying group that uses Christianity as a front to advance its pro-polluter agenda.
Then Mississippi’s Sen. Roger Wicker reiterated the previously mentioned Wall Street Journal story about Clinton raising more oil and gas money than Trump. Because when you can’t defend someone’s record, false equivalences make for convenient distractions. More anti-EPA softballs followed.
Next up was Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose office has received “a great deal” of concerned comments about Pruitt’s nomination. He asked Pruitt about the 97 percent consensus that climate change is real, man-made and already causing devastating problems. Does Pruitt “believe climate change is caused by carbon emissions, by human activity?”
Yes, Pruitt said he believes climate is changing and humans are contributing “in some manner.”
Sanders pressed that the consensus is that humans are the fundamental reason. Pruitt responded that he’s still uncertain about the “precision” with which we can measure things and dodged direct questions about why the climate is changing. Pruitt responded with process about the EPA administrator being beholden to Congressional intent. Pruitt said that his views are immaterial. Sanders scoffed, asking, “Do you believe we have to transform our energy?” Pruitt said that “the administrator has an important role” in regulating CO2.
Sanders also talked about Oklahoma’s frack-quakes. “Can you point me to any opinion that you wrote, any enforcement action you took against the companies injecting waste fracking water?” Pruitt said he’s “very concerned” about it and Sanders interrupted to ask what public statements Pruitt has made about it. Pruitt acknowledged his concern, but is clearly not making any declarative statement that would alleviate Sander’s concerns.
https://twitter.com/EcoWatch/status/820432842027139072 administration do wrong?”
Pruitt’s answer was unclear and Cardin attempted to get more specificity. Pruitt punted, at least three times in a row, before Cardin moved to fracking.
What should the federal role be, versus the states? Pruitt’s responded that it’s not a new process and Oklahoma has been regulating it for many years. Specifically on earthquakes, Pruitt “shared” the concerns of the Oklahoma officials in charge of overseeing the issue.
Next it was Inhofe’s turn and he explained PACs and defended Pruitt’s fossil fuel funding. Inhofe put Tom Steyer’s funding promises into the record in a bald attempt to distract from the conflict of interest questions at play with Pruitt. Carper helpfully pointed out that since those donations were disclosed, they’re not dark money at all. Inhofe ceded that point, chuckling.
After a rambling story about COP and Copenhagen and the Endangerment Finding and Lisa Jackson and the IPCC, Inhofe brought up Climategate. He alleged it’s a “lie about what causes global warming.” Inhofe quoted an unnamed scientist and other coverage about the fraud. He wanted that to be part of the record. He did not talk about the numerous exonerations.
Inhofe’s question was eventually about fuel standards, which Pruitt assures Inhofe he’ll review. Then it was Booker’s turn again and he brought up the Illinois River issue and the poultry case with Arkansas. Booker “really dug into this” and went deep into the details. Booker laid out the history of the case, eventually getting to the point—Pruitt let polluters off the hook for another three years, instead of enforcing compliance.
Barrasso, predictably at this point, introduced an op-ed supporting Pruitt and lobs a softball.
Sen. Markey wasted no time and gets back to the Endangerment Finding that “carbon pollution poses a danger to America.” Will Pruitt promise to keep that finding on the books?
Pruitt answered that the finding is “the law of the land” and as the EPA administrator he would uphold it. He said there’s nothing he’s aware of that would cause him to revisit that finding. An important reassurance.
After talking about fuel standards, Markey asked Pruitt to support the right of states to do more to fight climate change than the federal government, turning Pruitt’s states’ rights position on its head. Pruitt then dipped into legalese, stumbling over the word “adjudicated” as he refused to make any concrete statement.
Does he support the California waiver law? He respects it as something the administrator has to do, but said it’d be his responsibility to review it. Which Markey heard as “undo” it and proceeded to artfully call out Pruitt’s hypocrisy on the “double standard” that states like Oklahoma should have the right to resist protecting the environment, but Massachusetts’ right to set more stringent policies needs “review.”
In response to that damaging line of questioning, Barrasso introduced another document about the negative effects of regulations on jobs and such.
Next, Sen. Ernst of Iowa gave a friendly question: Will you oppose changes to the RFS standard’s point of obligation? Pruitt again refused to “prejudge” the situation.
She then brought up a chart of the state of Iowa, showing that via the expanded definition of the WOTUS rule, 97 percent of Iowa would be counted as a Water of the U.S. After a lot of Ernst misrepresenting the rule, Pruitt indicated that he’d do something about it.
Duckworth asked a yes or no question about the RFS, to which Pruitt does not give a yes or no answer. Instead he balked based on the comment period still being open and they got into a back and forth about congressional intent. Duckworth’s question, Pruitt contended, can only be answered once Pruitt is confirmed and has reviewed comments and everything else. For some reason this logic doesn’t apply to the WOTUS rule.
Duckworth was still “very concerned.” But she moved on to safe drinking water, specifically Flint, Michigan. Duckworth said she was “flabbergasted” that Pruitt doesn’t know about safe levels of lead in drinking water. “You’re seeking to be the EPA administrator and you haven’t looked into the issue of lead in our water supply?” She seemed incredulous and offended, and asked, “Have you even studied the Flint water crisis in preparing for this hearing?”
Pruitt again blamed the EPA for what happened in Flint.
Barrasso entered into the record another piece of praise for Pruitt and a series of softballs were thrown by Boozman, Sullivan and Moran.
Round three of questioning began with Barrasso talking about TSCA reform and Pruitt’s commitment to implementing it. Yes, Pruitt assured Barrasso, as administrator he will make it a priority (again displaying how Pruitt’s supposed commitment to states’ rights is flimsy). Barrasso then turned to the EPA’s handling of the gold mine spill, will Pruitt review the issue to help those that have been harmed? Yes, Pruitt replied.
Then, Delaware’s Sen. Carper went on a lengthy tangent about the WOTUS lawmaking, in something of a rebuttal to Ernst’s questionable WOTUS question. With 23 seconds remaining, Carper gets to his question: While Pruitt’s been suing the EPA over ozone standards, 17 counties in Oklahoma have failed clean air tests. What did Pruitt do about it?
Pruitt responded with his belief that counties should move to attainment and Carper quickly cut him off to ask: “What did you do about it?” Pruitt did not provide a clear answer and shifted responsibility elsewhere, indicating that he’s done nothing.
Saving Pruitt from further embarrassment on his inaction was Inhofe, who asked Pruitt to share his thoughts on sue and settle, long a thorn in polluter’s sides.
Sen. Whitehouse then countered by pointing out that regulations should also count benefits. For once, Whitehouse and Pruitt agreed on something. Then Whitehouse gets back to business—Pruitt’s lack of transparency regarding fundraising for the Rule of Law Defense Fund, RAGA, etc. Whitehouse pointed out that a RAGA agenda lists private meetings with Murray Energy and Southern Company, both funders of Pruitt affiliates. The conflict of interest run around began again, with Whitehouse unsuccessfully trying to get Pruitt to acknowledge even a hypothetical possibility for the appearance of impropriety.
Then Whitehouse hit Pruitt for slow walking FOIA requests for emails between his office and the companies that fund his groups. After more than 740 days, Pruitt’s office had yet to comply. Pruitt blamed the compliance officers, passing the buck yet again.
Are these 3,000 emails perhaps relevant to this hearing, Whitehouse asked? Pruitt’s answer was, yet again, that he’ll defer to the EPA ethics council. Whitehouse finished his time by pointing out that since he hasn’t disclosed this info to the ethics council, they can’t rule on it.
Barrasso entered into the record support for Pruitt from Oklahoma lawmakers and a complaint about the egg case showing Pruitt to be the one who filed.
Sen. Capito’s third round of questioning revolved around the states’ rights issue, when a state isn’t doing enough to protect its people. Pruitt agreed that the EPA has a duty to step in.
Sen. Merkley resumed by commenting on Inhofe’s submission of “Climategate,” introducing a UCS debunking of Inhofe’s favorite myth. Inhofe didn’t like that. Merkley then noted that the National Black Chamber of Commerce is funded by the Kochs and ExxonMobil and that the NAACP takes the opposite stance endorsing the Clean Power Plan. He then submited documents showing Native Americans and Latinos are very concerned about Pruitt’s nomination.
Getting to a question for Pruitt, Merkley brought up the “If 97 doctors say you have cancer…” line of thought. After establishing the validity of the science, Pruitt acknowledged that the Endangerment Finding and Mass v. EPA would compel him to act. But, asked Merkley, does Pruitt actually accept this or will he only do the legally obligated minimum? Pruitt’s response was more of the process argument that clearly fails to alleviate Merkley’s concerns.
For once, Barrasso didn’t submit some fluffy opinion supporting Pruitt before moving to the next question from Sen. Mike Rounds from South Dakota, who asked how Pruitt would make agency transparency and record keeping better. Pruitt indicated that he would do better, but didn’t say how. Rounds asked about the role of the administrator. Pruitt responded with his favorite answer: boring process talk.
Next Sen. Booker attempted to clarify the Illinois River issue, with a poster-sized blow-up of the agreement between Arkansas and Oklahoma. To Booker, it looks like Pruitt suspended a binding rule of law for three years to allow for more pollution to take place. Pruitt countered that he was concerned that Arkansas wasn’t going to live up to that standard, to which Booker responded that “literally six days after your so-called historic agreement,” Tyson wrote to the EPA “delighted” about Pruitt suspending the regulation implementation. Booker drove home the point that Pruitt’s win probably wasn’t a win for people or planet, because “Industry is really happy about this.”
After Pruitt attempted to defend himself, Booker remained unmoved in his opinion that Pruitt represents polluters not people.
Sen. Boozman of Arkansas only had one question. He addressed Sen. Booker to defend Arkansas’s lack of pollution yet at the same time their inability to meet the standard required by the agreement. Similarly Sen. Ernst was out of questions as 4:30 p.m. neared, but still wanted to make a comment about WOTUS overreach.
Sen. Markey still had questions, though. He called out Pruitt for criticizing sue and settle but then having the attorneys general in the Clean Power Plan suit try and do exactly that under President Trump. Will Pruitt recuse himself from this issue? Pruitt simply reasserted that sue and settle is bad, but then when pressed said he won’t pursue sue and settle if appointed. But will he recuse himself? Pruitt pointed for yet another time, to the EPA ethics council instead of answering the question himself. Markey was not pleased.
Markey then presented a bottle of Trump water and asked Pruitt to confirm that he will act to protect clean water supplies, particularly for low-income communities. Pruitt committed to that and to making minority communities a priority.
Sen. Sullivan’s final question dealt with infrastructure and Pruitt agreed that water infrastructure would be a priority.
Sen. Whitehouse asked for a fourth round of questions and Chairman Barrasso told him to submit his remaining questions instead. With that, Carper reminded the chairman that he said the hearing would go on until people were out of questions. After some rather tense negotiations, with GOP senators suggesting the hearing end and Carper and Whitehouse pushing for more time to question, Barrasso agreed to another short round for those with questions.
Sen. Whitehouse used his final question period to ask about Pruitt’s “@me.com” email address, in addition to his “oag.ok.gov” address.
Moving on, Whitehouse looked at the list of Pruitt’s cases, basically none of which were brought by Pruitt on behalf of the environment. Pruitt tried to pass the buck and said an underling was responsible for environmental action. But Whitehouse, who as a former AG knows a thing or two about the position, remained adamant about Pruitt’s startling absence of any actions brought to protect the environment.
Sen. Booker remained fixated on the Illinois River case involving poultry producers. Booker mapped out how Pruitt stopped the standard, disbanded the Oklahoma AG’s environmental unit and supported a “Right to Farm” law that weakens local laws to regulate farming. Which is all part of the pattern of Pruitt defending polluters from regulations, leaving Booker “worrying about which side you’re on.”
Pruitt didn’t exactly answer.
And as Carper pointed out next, Pruitt also didn’t yet answer the questionnaire that Carper sent him. Pruitt responded that the chairman told him not to answer. Carper moved on to ask if Pruitt would commit to regulating mercury under section 112. Pruitt agreed it’s something the EPA should regulate.
For his last question, Carper pulled out a big chart of cross-state pollution. Given Pruitt’s states-first approach, how will they deal with that and what’s the role of the EPA? Pruitt affirmed that the EPA should deal with interstate pollution.
Finally, the hearing came to an end. What did we learn? Mostly that Pruitt has taken a lot of steps to protect polluters from regulation and basically none to protect people from pollution.
After six and a half hours of questions, did Pruitt move any Democratic votes in his favor? Probably not. Will that mean he won’t be the next EPA administrator? We’ll see.
One last detail—as Pruitt was leaving, it sounded like he was approached by a woman who spoke about the hearing being draining, but that in her time in the ER dealing with something like a child clinging to life during an asthma attack, she’s never out in less than six hours.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.