Trump’s EPA nominee admits climate change is real but isn’t sure what he should do about it
Donald Trump’s nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt publicly split with the president-elect at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday on the topic of climate change. “I do not believe climate change is a hoax,” Pruitt said and stated his belief that the EPA has a “very important role” in regulating CO2.
Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” that he doesn’t believe and at least once said the it was concocted by the Chinese government. Such comments make Pruitt the latest of several high profile nominees to publicly disagree with their future commander-in-chief.
Pruitt’s comments also caught some of the Democratic Senators by surprise since he wrote last May in the National Review that “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to mankind.”
The urgency of the coming climate crisis was highlighted just as Pruitt’s hearing began when The New York Times reported that multiple government agencies in the U.S. and abroad, including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have found that 2016 was the hottest year on record. That broke the previous record set in 2015, which broke a record set in 2014, highlighting the clear trend of the earth’s climate.
But Pruitt’s acknowledgment of climate change’s existence did not necessarily mean he felt the EPA should do a lot about it. Pruitt, the current attorney general of Oklahoma and an ally of his state’s oil and gas industry, carefully parsed his language on whether people are causing climate change. “Human activity contributes to that in some manner,” he said, but he also added, “my personal opinion is immaterial.” While the EPA should regulate what he called the “CO2 issue,” Pruitt made clear that he would not push any regulations that weren’t specifically mandated by legislation.
Environmental groups have almost uniformly opposed Pruitt’s nomination. During his time as attorney general, Pruitt has filed 14 lawsuits against the EPA for what he has called their “activist agenda.” He also sent a complaint letter to the EPA in 2011 that was almost word-for-word written by lawyers for one of the state’s oil and gas companies.
With a large poster of the letter behind him, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon accused Pruitt of using his office “as an extension of an oil company.” Pruitt defended his actions as protecting an entire industry, not one company, against regulatory overreach.