Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Capitol Hill January 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. Pruitt is expected to face tough questioning about his stance on climate change and ties to the oil and gas industry. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)
In his career as Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt led or participated in many lawsuits seeking to block Environmental Protection Agency rules on water pollution, air pollution, and climate change. On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee questioned Pruitt as they considered him for the position of EPA Administrator.
For the most part, Pruitt seemed comfortable and prepared as senators peppered him with questions for hours. As is generally the case for confirmation hearings, he avoided most specific questions about potential EPA actions, assuring the senators that he would carefully review any decisions before passing judgment. Republican committee members mainly used their turns at the microphone to paint the EPA under the Obama Administration as an oppressive rogue agency, tossing friendly questions at Pruitt that sought to highlight his qualifications. Democratic members, on the other hand, were sharply critical of Pruitt’s history, attempting to paint him as a friend to polluters.
In his comments, Pruitt repeatedly emphasized his intent to ensure that the EPA would respect “the rule of law,” be more deferential to state governments, and make sure “all voices are heard” during the rule-making process. The picture was a greatly restrained EPA meant to contrast with what he perceived as an agency that had overstepped its legal authority, interfered with states, and ignored the economic costs of regulations in favor of environmental and health benefits. Pruitt said he had tried to “stay in my lane” as Attorney General, and he clearly believes the EPA should have a narrow lane.
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