By GREGORY ZELLER //
While several of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet-level nominations have dismayed and even angered socioeconomic observers of all political stripes, one in particular is sounding alarms at Environment New York.
The New York City-based advocacy group and public face of the Environment New York Research & Policy Center, which advocates often for Long Island-based environmental protections and clean-energy programs, immediately joined the chorus of environmental leaders condemning today’s announcement by the Trump transition team that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
As with the president-elect’s other nominations, Pruitt faces U.S. Senate confirmations and other protocols. But his nomination has already sent shockwaves through the establishment; among other red flags, the Oklahoma AG is currently suing the agency he’s been nominated to lead.
Pruitt has a long record of attacking many of the EPA’s environmental protections. As attorney general of hydrocarbon-happy Oklahoma, he joined a 2015 coalition of state AGs suing to stop the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a key Obama administration energy-industry greenhouse gas policy.
He also joined 14 other AGs to sue the agency over recent regulations curtailing methane emissions in the oil-and-gas sector, Oklahoma’s industrial bread-and-butter.
Pruitt’s disconnects with the EPA’s overriding mission are glaring, signaling a coming assault on the outgoing administration’s environmental legacy. In a statement announcing the Pruitt selection, Trump – noting “my administration believes strongly in environmental protection” – basically outlined his plan of attack, and said the on-the-record opponent of climate change science, theory and policy was the right man to lead it.
“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said Thursday, adding Pruitt “will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”
Environment New York is not buying a word of it, according to Director Heather Leibowitz, who said in a fiery statement today the president-elect’s EPA pick “fails on all accounts.”
“Scott Pruitt is a main party to several lawsuits against the very agency he would be in charge of,” Leibowitz said. “He denies the science of climate change and he has numerous close ties to polluters.”
The Environment New York director, who has promised to “mobilize” resistance if the Trump administration attacks environmental regulations, said New York, the nation and “the planet we love” are better served by an EPA leader who “is guided by science” and “puts public health ahead of dirty special interests,” neither of which describe the Oklahoma AG.
“We need an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who protects our environmental laws … and has the qualifications necessary to safeguard the American public from climate change,” Leibowitz said. “[Pruitt] meets none of those criteria.”
Environment New York was hardly the only organization decrying the Pruitt selection Thursday, nor the biggest or loudest. Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement that Trump has “flunked” and Pruitt is destined to join an ignominious list of “disastrous cabinet officials,” while the Sierra Club lambasted Pruitt, calling him “unfit” to serve as EPA director.
Pruitt is the third of Trump’s cabinet and cabinet-level nominees – EPA director is not technically a cabinet position – who would appear to have stark philosophical differences with the purported missions of their agencies.
Michigan billionaire Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos, Trump’s chosen education secretary, is known primarily as a vocal supporter of school choice and private-school vouchers that, critics say, undermine public school systems.
And retired surgeon Ben Carson, a Republican primary foe of the president-elect’s, was chosen to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development despite his public criticism of the fair-housing initiatives that mark HUD’s efforts.