Contentious Confirmation Hearing Expected for Trump’s EPA Nominee

By Barbara Hollingsworth | January 17, 2017 | 12:25 PM EST

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (left) entering Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 7, 2016 prior to being nominated as President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) –  Supporters and opponents of Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are gearing up for what is expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) Wednesday morning.

The hearing will pit environmentalists and defenders of the EPA against those who believe the regulatory agency has overstepped its boundaries and usurped Congress’ constitutional authority to make law.

Pruitt, a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” has sued the EPA more than a dozen times while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

He joined 27 other state attorneys general who filed a lawsuit against the EPA over its 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP), the cornerstone of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, calling it a “great concern from a constitutional perspective.”

The CPP imposes stringent new regulations on coal-fired power plants in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030 even though there is no commercially available technology to do so.

Under the rule, states must come up with their own comprehensive plans to hit that target or be subject to plans crafted by the EPA, which would likely include an interstate cap-and-trade scheme that has been repeatedly rejected by Congress.

Last February, in an unprecedented action, the U.S. Supreme Court put the CPP on hold, and a 10-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is currently reviewing the case en banc.

In their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state attorneys general argued that the EPA’s “power grab… seeks to reorganize the energy grids in nearly every State in the nation” in violation of statutory and judicial precedent....

“There simply is no argument that the [Clean Air] statute can be read to ‘clearly’ confer on EPA such transformative authority over the American economy,” the appeal stated.

Pruitt also participated in another lawsuit challenging the EPA’s controversial Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ extending EPA jurisdiction to small ponds and ditches, which the U.S. Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear.

Those lawsuits and others have infuriated environmental groups, who claim that Pruitt is “unfit” to lead the regulatory agency.

The Sierra Club compared Trump’s nomination of Pruitt with “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”

350.org called Pruitt “a puppet of the fossil fuel industry… This is a man who cares more about the profits of coal company CEOs than the health of our children or the future of our planet.”

 “Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally,” Elliott Negin, senior writer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a recent blog in The Huffington Post.

But a coalition of conservative groups is urging the Senate to confirm Pruitt, calling him “a stalwart defender against federal intrusion into state and individual rights.”

Some claim that Mr. Pruitt opposes clean air and water. This could not be further than the truth. Mr. Pruitt respects and upholds the Constitution, and understands that many of the nation’s challenges regarding clean air and water are best met at the state and local level,” the coalition stated in a letter to the Senate endorsing Pruitt.  

Craig Richardson, executive director of the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute and one of the co-signers of the letter, says he is “delighted” with Pruitt’s nomination, calling his record as Oklahoma attorney general “very fair and balanced.”

Nonetheless, Richardson predicted that Democrats on the EPW will try to “bork” Pruitt.

The Left’s fierce opposition to his nomination “is not because of Attorney General Pruitt,” he told CNSNews. “The EPA administrator was never a controversial position. It has become the Holy Grail for environmentalists because they put all their eggs in the EPA basket.”

 “Unfortunately, the Democrats will try to manipulate his record and play stallball. They will put on a good show and do anything they can to prolong the process. The difference now is that people are prepared for it and enough right-of-center groups will try to get the truth out past the fake corporate media,” he told CNSNews.

“We encourage Mr. Pruitt to gear up for battle since draining the EPA swamp will be met with the utmost resistance from an entrenched and well-funded green industrial complex,” Richardson said.

“But in the end, elections have consequences, Democrats don’t have the majority, and he will be confirmed as long as Republicans stand firm,” he predicted.

 “I think Pruitt will make an excellent EPA administrator,” Fred Morgan, president and CEO of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, who has known Pruitt since they were colleagues in the Oklahoma state legislature.

“If he comes across polluters, he will hammer them, but protecting the rights of states from the overreach of the federal government has been the key motivating principle of his career as attorney general,” Morgan told CNSNews. “He understands that the recent onslaught of rules and regulations from Washington has been devastating to business.”

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