Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s Senate confirmation hearing went almost exactly as expected.
Republicans voiced their support for Pruitt’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Trump administration, while Democrats grilled Pruitt on issues ranging from his campaign donations from energy companies to his views on global warming.
Throughout the hearing, though, Pruitt remained steadfast in his view the EPA needs to be reined in and “cooperative federalism” restored.
“EPA is an administrative agency, it’s not a legislative body,” Pruitt said, adding he rejected the “false paradigm” that you can’t be pro-energy and pro-environment. “It is not an ‘either-or’ proposition.”
Pruitt’s confirmation hearing was expected to be one of the most contentious for the Trump administration.
Democrats and environmentalists were quick to come out against Pruitt, claiming he’s a “climate denier” in the pocket of “Big Oil” who sued EPA 14 times to overturn environmental rules.
Environmental activists interrupted Pruitt’s hearing at least twice, including one instance where anti-Dakota Access Pipeline activist was arrested by Capitol Hill police.
Democrats pressed Pruitt on past donations he’s gotten from oil companies, and Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Kamala Harris of California asked Pruitt if he’d recuse himself from issues he sued EPA over while Oklahoma’s AG.
Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso countered by putting into the congressional record an article reporting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton got more from the oil and gas industry than President-elect Donald Trump.
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth grilled Pruitt on how he would administer the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand even implored the EPA nominee to “be vigilant” about sea level rise — not exactly something Pruitt can stop.
“I need you to be vigilant because lives are at stake” Gillibrand said in the hearing of storm surges caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders asked Pruitt why he thought the planet was warming. Pruitt said humans contributed to global warming in some way, but Sanders said “97 percent” of published scientists think humans are the main cause of warming — a demonstrably false claim.
“My personal opinion is immaterial,” Pruitt said before being castigated by Sanders.
Republican lawmakers pushed back against Democratic criticism, touting Pruitt’s record as Oklahoma AG and pointing to the onerous regulations EPA has imposed in the last eight years. Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford testified in favor of Pruitt’s nomination.
And that was only the first half of the hearing.
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