Skip to main content
What You Should Know

8 Reasons Why Scott Pruitt Should Not Head The EPA (As Heard At His Confirmation Hearing)

On Jan. 18, senators on the Environment & Public Works Committee questioned Pruitt on his record and his positions, giving the American public an opportunity to fully understand the impact that a Pruitt-led EPA will have on public health and the environment. Key moments from Pruitt’s confirmation hearing:

1. Pruitt’s Close Ties To Industry

Pruitt's “pay to play” unethical relationship with the oil industry cannot be overlooked. He is supported by fossil fuel-funded political action committees (PACs), with Politico reporting that a newly formed group has solicited contributions in the range of $500,000 to secure Pruitt’s confirmation as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Not sure what the EPA does? We've got an explainer.)

Pruitt has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fossil fuel industry since 2002. Industry stands to reap massive profits should Pruitt head the very agency that oversees their activities.

An investigation in 2014 by the New York Times had uncovered how attorneys for energy companies wrote letters for Pruitt to send to the EPA, Interior Department, and Office of Management and Budget.

2. Defending The Rights Of Corporations To Pollute?

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has repeatedly attacked bedrock laws that protect our air, water, health and communities.

3. On Lead, The Neurotoxin With The Power To Wreck Children’s Futures

The kid scientists of the Hyperbolics FIRST Lego League robotics team from South Carolina can help Pruitt out with the answer: Any exposure to lead poses serious health hazards, especially for young children. Even in small amounts, lead can have irreversible consequences for children, including diminished I.Q. and learning disabilities.

4. Pruitt’s Repeated Lawsuits Attempting To Weaken The EPA

Pruitt is notorious for using his position as Oklahoma Attorney General to weaken clean air and health protections adopted by the agency he is now trying to lead, targeting the EPA with a string of lawsuits—virtually all of which have been rejected by the courts. Among others, he has challenged the EPA's Clean Power Plan (which imposes limits on carbon emissions, the main driver of climate change) and opposed regulations on methane (the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide).

5. On Climate Change

In an op-ed in May 2016, Pruitt questioned the science around climate change, erroneously arguing that the link between global warming and human activity is unclear.

6. On Our Right To Breathe Clean Air

In 2010, Pruitt challenged the Obama administration’s plans to reduce haze in southwestern Oklahoma by requiring new pollution control equipment. (Haze, largely the result of burning fossil fuels, is a mix of particulates and toxic gases, and especially dangerous for vulnerable groups, such as children, senior citizens and people with breathing problems like asthma.)

7. On Fracking

Pruitt criticized the EPA in 2014 for attempting to link fracking with groundwater contamination.

Senator Bernie Sanders raises the issue with Pruitt (at 4:15 in the video below, after he questions Pruitt on climate change):

8. On Mercury

In 2011, after an 11-year process, the EPA issued the first-ever standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants—The Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS). Simply by requiring the worst-polluting plants to match the performance and technology of their more responsible competitors, the standards save between 4,200 and 11,000 lives every year.

These public health protections were already years overdue because the coal industry and its allies had been trying to derail them from the beginning. The standard continued to face challenges, including from Pruitt.

Earthjustice battled for these protections for the public in court for more than fifteen years, side-by-side with a large coalition of clients and partners, and stands ready to continue the fight.

… In Closing:

Watch the complete video of the committee hearing, and read what you should know about Pruitt and the agency he'll lead. Pruitt was confirmed by the full Senate on Feb. 17, along a mostly party-line vote of 52–46. “This is a sad day for our country, especially for those living in polluted neighborhoods who count on the Environmental Protection Agency for help cleaning up their air, water and land. Scott Pruitt is unfit to lead the EPA,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.

“Earthjustice’s mission remains the same: to protect the environment and health of all people. We have the law, the facts, the science and public opinion on our side. We will fight in every court across the country if Administrator Pruitt tries to take a sledgehammer to the agency charged with the protection of our air and water.”