Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, one of the most outspoken opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is now the agency’s chief.
Senate Republicans confirmed Pruitt on Friday afternoon, despite hours of protesting from Democrats who unsuccessfully tried to delay his confirmation vote until they had sufficient time to review some 3,000 emails between his office and fossil fuel companies. Every Republican except Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted to confirm Pruitt. Two Democrats from fossil fuel-producing states — Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) — broke with their party and voted for Pruitt’s confirmation. Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) did not vote.
Pruitt is considered to be a longtime friend of extractive industries as the top lawyer for a state friendly to the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking has become so pervasive in Oklahoma that the state’s unusually high rate of earthquakes is attributed to the practice, which involves shooting highly pressurized jets of water mixed with chemicals underground to extract natural gas. The state of Oklahoma admitted that it experienced 475 more earthquakes in 2014 than it did in 2013, before fracking became a major industry.
As the New York Times reported, Pruitt has, on more than one occasion, used the power of his office to act on behalf of fossil fuel companies upset with EPA regulations meant to safeguard clean air and water. Devon Energy executive Bill Whitsitt once sent Pruitt over 1,000 words of draft language complaining about regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pruitt only changed a handful of Whitsitt’s words before putting it on state letterhead and sending the letter to Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator for the Obama administration.
Pruitt has sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, and received over $250,000 in campaign contributions from the oil & gas lobby since 2010. The CEO of a fossil fuel company was also the chairman of Pruitt’s re-election campaign.
President Donald Trump is expected to soon release anywhere between two and five new executive orders aimed at weakening the EPA following Pruitt’s confirmation.
Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook.