SENATE CONFIRMS ENVIROMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY SECRETARY WHO HAS SUED THE EPA TO WEAKEN CLEAN AIR AND WATER REGULATIONS

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By Miriam Raftery

February 19, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – The Senate, by a 52-46 vote, has confirmed Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, even though he has sued the EPA over a dozen times as Attorney General for Oklahoma, joining with oil companies in an effort to weaken environmental protections, Reuters reports.

Pruitt, a climate change denier, has long voiced views that are the opposite of the EPA’s mission, which is to protect public health and the environment, including regulations to restrict pollution of air and water, also working with other nations to protect the global environment.

“If you don’t believe in climate science, you don’t belong at the EPA,” says May Boeve, leader of the environmental organization 350.org.

But Republicans, particularly those in oil and coal producing states, have argued that regulations need to be rolled back. Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan argued on the Senate floor that the EPA has “been an enormous power grab. They regulate puddles,” Fox News reports.

Pruitt’s nomination was opposed by nearly 800 former EPA staffers who signed a letter to Senators stating Pruitt should be rejected because he has shown “no interest in enforcing environmental laws.”

Senate Democrats fought to postpone the confirmation decision until after a judge released records set to become public later this month.  Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons found Pruitt ignored public records requests by the Center for Media and Democracy, which asked for 3,000 emails between fossil fuel companies including Koch Industries and the National Coal Council his office as the state’s Attorney General.  Judge Timmons found Pruitt displayed an “abject failure to provide prompt and reasonable access to documents requested.”

As of this week, Pruitt’s office has turned over 411 of the more than 3,000 documents requested but the judge has mandated that all be turned over by Tuesday. The judge will determine whether all of the records will be made public and if any may be withheld.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer accused Republicans of strapping “blinders” on in forcing a vote without first reviewing those emails.

Two Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined with Republicans to push through the nomination over near-unanimous opposition by Democrats.  Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote against Pruitt’s nomination though Republican Senator John McCain was absent due to attending a conference overseas.

The environmental group 350.org is organizing a People’s Climate Mobilization march on April 29th to protest Trump’s “fossil fuel agenda.”  In an email to its members, 350.org said Trump’s cabinet may be “the most corrupt cabinet in American history” adding, “The fossil fuel industry got what they paid for,” a reference to huge campaign contributions made by oil, gas and coal companies to many of the Senators who voted for Pruitt and other anti-environmental cabinet nominees.