Trump Selects Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt To Run The EPA
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
There are multiple reports today that President-elect Donald Trump has picked Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt met with Trump this morning, and NPR is seeking confirmation of the pick. Pruitt is currently the attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, and in that role, he has been deeply critical of the EPA. Joining us to talk more about this is NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce. Hi there.
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Hey.
SHAPIRO: Tell us about Scott Pruitt.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: So as you mentioned, he's the attorney general for Oklahoma. And before that, he served in Oklahoma's State Senate. He's described himself as a big fan of beef, and he says his favorite drink is coffee. That's what he told the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association in an interview.
The conservative columnist George Will describes him as, quote, "one of the Obama administration's most tenacious tormentors." And his official biography on the website for the Oklahoma attorney general calls him, quote, "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda."
SHAPIRO: And he has actually been involved in suing the EPA, right?
GREENFIELDBOYCE: That's right - quite a lot. So he's sued over the EPA's Clean Power Plan. That's the plan that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. He's sued over the agency's proposals to extend the Clean Water Act so that it would cover additional waterways.
He's even sued the EPA for being sued by environmental groups. Basically he says that the agency encourages friendly lawsuits to sort of regulate through legal settlement.
SHAPIRO: So he's been such an opponent of the EPA. If he's confirmed by the Senate to lead the agency, what can we expect from him?
GREENFIELDBOYCE: So I got some tape from him giving testimony before Congress recently and talking about the EPA. So you can take a listen, and here he is describing the EPA in his own words.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SCOTT PRUITT: There are clearly air and water quality issues that cross state lines, and sometimes that can require federal intervention. At the same time, the EPA was never intended to be our nation's foremost environmental regulator.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: He says the states were supposed to be the primary regulators. And so that's the attitude and approach he could bring to the federal agency.
SHAPIRO: He's also been at the center of some controversy because of his close ties with the energy industry. Tell us about that.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Right, so Oklahoma - big oil and gas state. And The New York Times in some recent reporting found that one letter sent to the EPA from Pruitt was actually ghost written by lawyers with a major Oklahoma oil and gas company.
SHAPIRO: So how do we expect different groups to respond to this announcement?
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, I mean people who think that the federal government overreaches will be pleased. Industry will be pleased - oil and gas - that kind of thing. Environmentalists - not so happy, and sort of dismayed statements are already coming out. For example, the Sierra Club's executive director said that putting Pruitt in charge was, quote, "like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires."
SHAPIRO: NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce, thanks very much.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Thank you.
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