Scott Pruitt—who spent years challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate the air, water, and climate—was confirmed by the Senate on Friday and will become that agency’s next administrator.
Pruitt, having sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the Obama administration, represents the antithesis of what climate groups would consider an environmental-friendly administrator. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt spent years challenging the EPA’s rules, such as one that restricts how much mercury can be emitted by coal plants, and another meant to keep the air clean at national parks and wildlife refuges.
Nevertheless, Pruitt will now, one way or another, direct that agency, whose stated mission is to “protect human health and the environment.”
Pruitt’s appointment was confirmed by a 52-46 vote. Two Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, supported Pruitt, while only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against him.
The Sierra Club, one of America’s most influential environmental groups, quickly labelled Pruitt as, potentially, the “most dangerous EPA administrator” in history, adding: “Pruitt has taken millions of dollars from corporate polluters, and has protected their interests at every turn—yet is now in charge of protecting our children from the dirty air and toxic water created by these very same polluters.”
Still, not everyone is unhappy about Pruitt’s new role.
“The EPA has long been an agency in need of cultural and regulatory reform to ensure it protects all Americans, in all professions and in all regions of the country,” said the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, a 140-year old trade group that represents the beef industry.