Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he wants the Environmental Protection Agency to be run by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a longtime ally of the oil and gas industry who has led litigation efforts to overturn the EPA’s rules to address climate change.
As a state attorney general, Pruitt was caught sending a letter to regulators that was drafted by lobbyists working for Devon Energy, a major drilling company. As Pruitt joined a lawsuit against rules opposed by the fracking industry, he simultaneously courted industry donors, including billionaire fracking executive Harold Hamm, who served as the co-chair of Pruitt’s 2013 election campaign.
Pruitt has questioned the role of human-made pollution in causing climate change, writing for the National Review this year that the “debate is far from settled.”
The Pruitt announcement was immediately criticized by environmentalists. Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the nomination of “a climate change denier” who “has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent, not less, on fossil fuels.” Robert Verchick, the president of the Center for Progressive Reform, called the pick “a clear indication that the administration plans a full-throated assault on environmental protections.”
The nomination comes on the heels of other industry-friendly staff announcements. Earlier this week, the Trump transition team revealed that a former mining industry lobbyist as well as think tank fellow who denies human-made climate change are among the team members now reshaping the EPA to fit the president-elect’s agenda.
George Sugiyama, one of the new EPA transition team members, was the chief counsel for Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the lawmaker best known for his claim that climate change is a “hoax” and that scientific research tying greenhouse-gas emissions to the warming planet have been refuted by the Bible. Before working for Inhofe, Sugiyama was paid to lobby on environmental regulations on behalf of the National Mining Association.
David Kreutzer, another hire for the Trump EPA transition, is an economist and think tank official who has been a vocal critic of environmental regulations and climate change science. “Global warming is for real in that we’ve had global warming since the end of the last Ice Age,” he told C-SPAN’s Steve Scully last year.
As a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a group funded by foundations controlled by Koch Industries and other fossil fuel firms, Kreutzer has co-published several papers in which he casts doubt on federal policies aimed to fight climate change. In a paper from April that calls climate change an “unlikely problem,” Kreutzer and his colleagues argued that Obama’s EPA policies were “favoring elites and undermining the fairness of our economic system.”
This year alone he has criticized carbon dioxide caps, solar power, and fuel regulations. His main critique is that they are too costly and give the government too much power. Kreutzer has advocated several times for more domestic oil drilling. In 2008, he recommended in congressional testimony that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be drilled for oil.
During the election, Trump also selected Myron Ebell, an official at the Competitive Enterprise Institute — another think tank that relies on donors such as Devon Energy and Koch Industries — to work on leading the handoff at the EPA. Like his Trump colleagues, Ebell has long campaigned against any type of action to curb greenhouse gas pollution. Though he’s not a scientist, Ebell has made a career out of questioning the science around global warming, working at a fossil fuel industry group formed in 1997 “to dispel the myths of global warming exposing flawed economic, scientific and risk analysis.” He has said that global warming is “nothing to worry about.”