You may have heard Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sued that agency 14 times. And you may have heard Pruitt denies climate change is a problem that ought to be addressed. These two facts alone cast doubt on Pruitt’s suitability for the role, but there’s more. During his six years as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt eschewed federal environmental policies in favor of working with polluting industries, many of which donated to his campaign.
When Pruitt first took office, he stepped into a legal battle over Oklahoma waters polluted with chicken manure. He could have pushed for punishment for poultry companies, asking for federal help to extract millions of dollars in damages, but instead Pruitt negotiated a quiet deal to further study the problem, rather than address it. Lawyers and executives of the poultry industry had contributed thousands of dollars to his campaign before he made the deal. The New York Times pointed out this instance was only one of several where Pruitt prioritized industries, including fossil fuel and agriculture companies, and attempted to soften the blow of federal environmental policies.
Mark Derichsweiler, who led a Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality division tasked with cleaning up the manure, told The New York Times, “He has advocated and stood up for the profits of business, be it the poultry companies or the energy industry and other polluters, at the expense of people who have to drink the water or breathe the air.”
Conservative groups say Pruitt prefers letting states handle environmental policies rather than the federal government. But environmental issues often concern multiple states; in the chicken manure incident, much of the pollution actually came from Arkansas.
Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp told The New York Times, “The president’s choices deserve a lot of deference from Congress and even environmental groups. But at some point when the nominee has spend his entire career attempting to dismantle environmental protections, it become unacceptable. That’s why Mr. Pruitt is the first EPA nominee from either party that the Environmental Defense Fund has opposed in our 50-year history.”