On Wednesday, President-Elect Donald Trump’s transition team announced that Trump will name Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the next Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In a statement that same day, the transition team quoted Pruitt as stating that he “intend[s] to run th[e] agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”
After graduating from law school, Pruitt worked in private practice and then served eight years in the Oklahoma Senate. In 2010, he was elected as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. In this role, Pruitt has become a leader in creating coalitions of states to challenge a number of high profile environmental regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the U.S. rule, and a number of others.
Trump’s transition team stated Pruitt will be “deeply involved” in implementing the Administration’s new energy plan, an arena in which Pruitt has had significant involvement over the last six years. As a long-time Oklahoman, Pruitt has a particular interest in the oil and gas industry but has supported coal as well. His appointment confirms that the Trump Administration intends to emphasize the nation’s continued use of fossil fuels. He can be expected to support the repeal or significant revision of some of the highest profile Obama Administration environmental regulations that were anti-coal and, increasingly as the Administration entered its final years, that burdened the oil and gas industry. He may also be expected to refocus EPA in a way that, consistent with legal requirements, supports rather than hinders the development of new energy infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines.
Another area that can be expected to change under Pruitt is the relationship of the state and federal governments in developing, implementing and enforcing environmental policy. Pruitt has been outspoken in complaining that the current EPA has overreached in arrogating power to itself at the expense of the states. He can be expected to redefine the respective roles of EPA and the states in a way that gives states a much more significant role than they have had in the current Administration.
The Pruitt nomination has already engendered opposition from the environmental community and senior Democratic Party senators. One area that will surely become an issue in his confirmation hearings will be his statement that the climate science “debate is far from settled.” It is uncertain, however, whether the Democrats will try to filibuster his confirmation or whether, if they do, they can hold enough Democrats to succeed.
All in all, Pruitt’s confirmation will usher in a very different EPA than under Obama EPA Administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy.