Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is the new leader of the U.S. EPA. Although he was confirmed by the Senate and took the reins Feb. 17, Pruitt’s appointment has been criticized by a number of opponents, including hundreds of former agency staffers.
Pruitt was confirmed on a 52-46 Senate vote last week to head the country’s top environmental regulatory body. President Trump nominated him in December, saying in a statement that Pruitt would reverse a trend of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spending “taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs” and damaged industries.
Pruitt said in a statement that the EPA has drained “billions of dollars” through unnecessary regulations, and that his intent was to “run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”
A press release announcing the appointment states Pruitt “is committed to working with the thousands of dedicated public servants at EPA” to further the agency’s goals.
But prior to his confirmation, more than 700 former EPA employees signed a letter criticizing Pruitt as a nominee for the administrator position. Former EPA solid waste officials who signed the list include Kris Colt, John Cross, Christopher Dege, Michael Gruber, Sara Hartwell, Judi Kane, Clare Lindsay, Alexander McBride and Donna McGowan.
In the letter, the former employees described Pruitt as a “close ally of the oil and gas industry” who has “made a career of suing EPA and attacking the idea of federal action to reduce pollution” while also not enforcing Oklahoma’s environmental laws during his time as attorney general.
Some state recycling organizations have also expressed anxiety that Republicans at the federal level will gut the EPA’s support for state and local-level recycling efforts.
The New York Times reported that Pruitt’s supporters and opponents alike say he is “well positioned to carry out Mr. Trump’s campaign trail promises to dismantle the agency and slash its ranks of employees.”
Still, Pruitt has received a warmer welcome from the trade group American Chemistry Council, which issued a statement congratulating him and expressing a desire to “ensure that credible science and transparency are at the heart of regulatory decisions and that our nation’s key environmental statutes are implemented in a sensible manner.”