US president-elect Donald Trump has chosen Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signalling Mr. Trump’s determination to make good on his promise to dismantle his predecessor’s efforts to counter climate change, and probably much of the EPA itself.
Mr Pruitt has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr Obama’s climate change policies. But he is more than a gun for hire. His published views also chime with Trump’s comments during his campaign, in which he criticised the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, threatened to ‘cancel’ the Paris accord commiting nearly every country to taking action to fight climate change, and characterised the main plank of Mr Obama’s global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a ‘war on coal.’
“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote in National Review earlier this year. “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress.”
Environmental activists may have been given hope that Mr. Trump was moderating his campaign stance when he told New York Times reporters that he does think there is a connection between human activity and a warming planet. With the choice of Mr. Pruitt, that hope will have faded.
“During the campaign, Mr. Trump regularly threatened to dismantle the EPA and roll back many of the gains made to reduce Americans’ exposures to industrial pollution, and with Pruitt, the president-elect would make good on those threats,” said Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy organisation. “It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air ... in history,” he added.
Fossil fuel interests have greeted Mr. Trump’s selection enthusiastically. “Attorney General Scott Pruitt has long been a defender of states’ rights and a vocal opponent of the current administration’s overreaching EPA,” said Laura Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which works on behalf of the coal industry. “Mr. Pruitt will be a significant voice of reason when it comes to energy and environmental regulations.”
At the heart of Mr.Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change are EPA regulations aimed at forcing power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution. Mr Trump cannot unilaterally cancel the rules, which were released under the 1970 Clean Air Act. But a legally experienced EPA chief could substantially weaken, delay or slowly take them apart.