Questions mount over Pruitt's fossil fuel ties as confirmation hearings loom

Dive Brief:

  • A new nonprofit has formed to support the appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Politico reports, as a counterbalance to anti-Pruitt campaigning from "anti-business, environmental extremists."
  • The news outlet obtained a flier produced by the group, Protecting America Now (PAN), which warns Pruitt’s confirmation “is not a certainty," and says millions of dollars are needed to support his nomination.
  • Two separate political action committees associated with Pruitt shut down this week, E&E News reports, after news broke that one of the groups could continue collecting donations even if Pruitt is confirmed. 

Dive Insight:

Pruitt has been a vocal critic of the EPA's power sector regulations under President Obama and is among those leading a lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan.

Politico reports that it's unclear who supports the latest group throwing its weight behind the Oklahoma Attorney General, but that its appearance follows other efforts from fossil fuel interests to bolster the nominee. 

According to Politico, nonprofit PAN will not need to disclose donors and is asking for donations ranging from $25,000 to $500,000. The group's website says its mission is "to restore the EPA to its original intent through smart, certain regulation that protects the environment and creates jobs."

E&E News also reported last week that a super PAC called Liberty 2.0 said they will continue soliciting donations even if Pruitt is confirmed to the EPA. A week later, Liberty 2.0 and another super PAC, Oklahoma Strong Leadership, announced plans to shut down as Pruitt faces confirmation hearings this month. 

Pruitt became Oklahoma attorney general in 2011. His cooperation with fossil fuel interests have been consistent throughout his tenure, as a 2014 New York Times investigation uncovered emails detailing his work with energy companies to undermine the Obama administration's environmental regulations dating back to 2011.

In 2015, E&E News uncovered attempts by Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm to stifle research examining links to horizontal drilling techniques to an uptick in earthquakes. Hamm ran Pruitt's re-election campaign in 2013. 

Pruitt has been a strident critic of the Obama administration's environmental policy, and his office has done significant work on legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan. He also voiced skepticism over climate science, writing this May that the debate is "far from settled."

"Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind," he wrote in a National Journal op-ed. "That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress."

Confirmation hearings for Pruitt and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), Trump's pick to lead the Department of Energy, could come as early as next week, Politico reported Tuesday.

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
Top image credit: Gage Skidmore