Scott Pruitt's EPA Administrator Confirmation Hearing Begins Wednesday Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has sparked controversy for his denial of climate science and his ties to fossil-fuel interests. Here's what to expect in Wednesday's confirmation hearing.

EPA Critic To Get Sharp Questions On Industry Ties As He Vies To Run Agency

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So many Cabinet nominees, so little time. One of the nominees who has a hearing today is Scott Pruitt. He is the attorney general of Oklahoma - now President-elect Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. He faces opposition because of his ties to fossil fuel industries and his questioning of climate science. Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma has more on what to expect.

JOE WERTZ, BYLINE: Scott Pruitt has been public with his defense of coal and oil and natural gas - industries the federal agency oversees. Here's what he told me in 2013.

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SCOTT PRUITT: I think the attitude with the EPA and certain environmental groups is that fossil fuels are bad, period. And they're doing everything they can to use the rule-making process to attack.

WERTZ: Since then, Pruitt has become a leader in counter-attacking. He's joined other Republican attorneys general to fight EPA regulations with federal lawsuits - on ozone, methane emissions and Obama's signature climate plan.

MICHAEL BRUNE: This is not somebody who should be leading the Environmental Protection Agency.

WERTZ: Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club.

BRUNE: Mr. Pruitt has basically made his career working to tear down, or at least challenge, environmental and public health safeguards. Why does he want to lead EPA if that's what he's spent his career doing?

WERTZ: Brune also hopes the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee asks tough questions about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Pruitt has received from fossil fuel industries.

KAY MILLS: He's taking a lot of campaign contributions from big corporate polluters. I'm afraid that that's where he's going to get his information.

WERTZ: That's Kay Mills from Missouri. She's part of the Moms Clean Air Force, a national group of women who traveled to D.C. to pressure their senators to reject Pruitt's nomination.

MILLS: Because I'm really concerned about Scott Pruitt's rejection of science - in particular, his rejection of the science around mercury pollution. As a pregnant mother, you know, I've been thinking a lot about mercury and how that impacts my unborn baby.

WERTZ: Pruitt has been less active than his predecessor in the Oklahoma AG's office in pursuing environmental cases. Court records and data collected by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group also suggest Pruitt stalled a state lawsuit over water pollution from chicken manure after receiving contributions linked to the poultry industry. Pruitt declined requests for an interview. But Pruitt's industry ties are seen as a good thing by many of his supporters. And he's likely to get a positive reception from Republican senators from coal and oil and gas states.

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MARTY DURBIN: Attorney General Pruitt has certainly shown a clear understanding of energy policy in his time in Oklahoma.

WERTZ: That's the American Petroleum Institute's Marty Durbin on a call with reporters.

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DURBIN: We can achieve the goals of environmental improvement, you know, without sacrificing, you know, our economic development, energy security, you know, jobs.

WERTZ: The coal industry has also come out in support of Pruitt's nomination to the EPA. Groups representing these drillers and miners say their economic concerns were largely ignored over the past eight years. For NPR News, I'm Joe Wertz in Oklahoma City.

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