Earlier this month, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was selected by President-elect Donald Trump to become the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
This appointment comes after Pruitt joined several other state attorneys general in suing the agency over the Clean Power Plan, a policy drafted under the Obama administration that is designed to reduce pollution from the electricity sector.
This isn’t the first time Pruitt has taken legal action against the EPA.
In 2014, The New York Times published a story about Pruitt and other GOP attorneys general who agreed to push back against the regulatory agenda set by the Obama administration. According to The Times, Pruitt “accused federal regulators of overestimating the amount of air pollution being emitted” by energy companies that were drilling natural-gas wells in Oklahoma.
Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway told reporters that, “Attorney General Pruitt has great qualifications and a good record as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, and there were a number of qualified candidates for that particular position that the President-elect interviewed and he settled on Attorney General Pruitt and we’ll look forward to the confirmation hearing.”
However, not everyone in Washington is quick to sing his praises.
Former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that the decision to tap Pruitt is “sad and dangerous” because he’s a “climate denier who’s worked closely with the fossil fuel industry.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted a statement saying Pruitt’s record as attorney general is a “laundry list of favors to the special interests.”
In a statement from the Trump transition team making the nomination official, Pruitt was quoted as saying:
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”
And he’s right.
In the past decade, the EPA has spent a total of $92.4 million to “purchase, rent, install and store office furniture ranging from fancy hickory chairs and a hexagonal wooden table,” The Washington Times reports.
The bulk of that spending, $48.4million, was on products from high-end retailer Herman Miller. The company ‘places great importance on design, the environment, community service, and the health of our customers’ and had approximately $1.8 billion in sales in 2013.
On Aug. 5, 2015 a team of workers contracted by the EPA spilled 3 million gallons of orange-colored waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities.
According to a WSJ review of data, a Missouri-based firm, Environmental Restoration LLC (ER), was the “contractor whose work caused a mine spill in Colorado that released an estimated 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a major river system.” ER received $381 million in government contracts since October 2007, approximately $364 million from the EPA and $37 million from work performed in Colorado.
If anything, Pruitt’s appointment could finally bring about some accountability and transparency to the agency – something that’s long overdue.