Activists are not satisfied with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to back away from lawsuits he brought against the agency during his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
Lawmakers and environmental groups believe Pruitt’s recusal from litigation he brought against the Obama administration’s climate regulations should also include stepping down from rulemaking on climate issues. Their complaints stem from the widely held view in liberal circles that the EPA head is unethical and a threat to the environment.
“He decided to recuse himself from litigation that he brought to repeal the Clean Power Plan, but, as administrator, he is still presiding over the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which doesn’t fulfill the spirit of his ethical obligations,” one Democratic aide told E&E News reporters Monday – the outlet that published Pruitt’s recusal letter earlier this month.
Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, and ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Pruitt has a legal obligation to objectively assess regulations that affect climate change.
“Scott Pruitt had the opportunity to assure the public that he is capable of being an impartial regulator who can objectively assess the science and the laws that govern global warming and other dangerous air and water pollution. He chose not to do that,” Carper said.
Carper called on Democrats in December to stonewall Pruitt’s nomination, despite telling his Republican colleagues in 2014 that presidents of both parties deserve to pick whoever they want to fill their cabinets.
Pruitt, meanwhile, said in his recusal statement earlier this month that the restrictions he signed do not extend to the agency’s rulemaking.
“This federal ethics limitation does not extend to particular matters of general applicability, such as rulemaking,” he said in the statement.
“I am profoundly committed to carrying out my ethical responsibilities,” he added. “While I have recused myself from making decisions on specific cases, it is my duty and privilege as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to actively engage in rulemaking.”
Activists etched out harsher criticisms than their fellow travelers on Capitol Hill.
“The fact that Scott Pruitt has to recuse himself from so many cases, many of which are extremely high profile, is evidence that he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the EPA,” said Naomi Ages, who leads the climate liability project at Greenpeace.
Pruitt was “an irritating obstacle” to EPA’s efforts to protect the environment, but now as head of the agency, she told reporters, “Pruitt is an outright menace to the air, water, land, climate and well-being of us all.”
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