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Trump's EPA Pick Hides Pro-Polluter Record Behind Process Jargon

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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?

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.

Sanders finished his time by saying, "If that's the kind of EPA administrator you're going to be, you won't get my vote." It certainly seemed like that's the feeling of the Dem senators thus far.

Inhofe then introduced the debunked Wall Street Journal op-ed, followed by Barrasso introducing Jeb Bush's CNN op-ed praising Pruitt and Barrasso's own report, Red Tape Making Americans Sick, about the health impacts of unemployment.

With that, it was time to break for lunch.

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