President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The big-oil friendly AG has sued the agency repeatedly during his tenure and suggests that debate on climate change is “far from settled.”
Pruitt is Trump’s third agency head nominee – joining Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Ben Carson and Education Secretary nominee Betsey DeVos – to have deep philosophical differences about the mission of the agency that person will head.
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” said Pruitt in the statement announcing his nomination.
If confirmed by Congress, the self-described opponent of the “EPA’s activist agenda” is likely to begin dismantling many of the programs put in place by the Obama administration, including the current corporate average fuel economy standards requiring automakers to achieve a fleet-wide fuel economy average of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
The agency is undertaking an effort to cement those rules before Trump is inaugurated next month over the objections of automakers claiming the move is unfair and eliminates the mid-term evaluation aimed to giving the companies a chance to voice opposition to the current benchmark.
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers CEO Mitch Bainwol told Automotive News the group hopes to work with Pruitt on the mid-term evaluation “is completed thoroughly and with close attention to achieving a balanced outcome so that we can continue to achieve gains in fuel efficiency and carbon reduction while also protecting customer affordability and auto-dependent jobs.”
AAM represents 12 automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and several foreign car companies.
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While Trump has said very little about his plans for the CAFE standards during the campaign and then time since his election, one of his overarching themes is that he will cut down on the number of regulations that industries must deal with today.
In the Pruitt announcement, it appears he plans to stick to those ideals.
“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a statement.
Pruitt “will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.” Trump added, “My administration “strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity.”
Pruitt’s critics are not so sure.
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“Scott Pruitt would have EPA stand for Every Polluter’s Ally,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who has been active in support of the EPA environmental efforts.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, was equally displeased, suggesting that Pruitt leading the agency was “like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” according to the Washington Post.
The Oklahoma Attorney General has filed suit against the EPA over: the Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse gas emissions from power plants; extending the reach of the Clean Water Act to cover more waterways; and for being sued by environmental advocacy groups, alleging the agency encourages the suits to help form policy.
Pruitt acknowledges the agency is supposed to help resolve air and water quality issues that cross state lines, but adds, “At the same time, the EPA was never intended to be our nation’s foremost environmental regulator.”
“Scott Pruitt has a record of attacking the environmental protections that EPA is charged with enforcing. He has built his political career by trying to undermine EPA’s mission of environmental protection,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement.
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“Our country needs — and deserves — an EPA administrator who is guided by science, who respects America’s environmental laws, and who values protecting the health and safety of all Americans ahead of the lobbying agenda of special interests.”