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US Senate Confirms Trump's EPA Nominee Over Objections by Environmentalists

  • VOA News

FILE - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at his confirmation hearing.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump's pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency over the objections of environmentalists who are worried he will roll back the agency's enforcement efforts.

Scott Pruitt was confirmed largely along party lines by a vote of 52-46. Only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against him, while two Democrats from energy-producing states, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, voted for him.

The vote Friday came after Democrats held an all-night session on the Senate floor with a series of speeches opposing Pruitt's confirmation.

Pruitt previously held the post of attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, and has filed or joined in more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA. He has challenged the agency's authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants as well as other types of pollution.

FILE - Environmental Protection Agency employees and environmental activists gather in Chicago, Feb. 6, 2017, to protest the nomination of Scott Pruitt for administrator of the agency.
FILE - Environmental Protection Agency employees and environmental activists gather in Chicago, Feb. 6, 2017, to protest the nomination of Scott Pruitt for administrator of the agency.

Environmental groups had launched a media campaign to block Pruitt's confirmation, saying they believed Pruitt would gut the administration. Pruitt has said he will reform and modernize the EPA.

Pruitt has in the past cast doubt on the science behind global warming. However, in his Senate confirmation hearings, he said "human activity in some manner" affects climate change.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah said Pruitt wants to cut back on environmental regulations that harm businesses while still protecting the environment.

"Mr. Pruitt wants an EPA that is both pro-environment and pro-growth. What's wrong with that? That's long, it's long overdue," he said.

Democrats had sought to delay the confirmation vote for Pruitt until after emails related to his dealings with oil and gas executives were released. As part of a public records lawsuit, a judge in Oklahoma has ordered Pruitt to release thousands of emails by Tuesday.

Pruitt, 48, is closely aligned in his home state with oil and gas companies, whose executives have given donations to his political campaigns.

WATCH: Schumer on Benefits of Waiting for Pruitt Emails

Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said there was no good reason not the delay the vote. "To wait a few extra days to go over Pruitt's emails is not the worst thing in the world. It's the smart and responsible thing to do," he said.

Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, said Pruitt had been thoroughly vetted in recent months and called on Democrats to end their obstruction against Pruitt.

"If there wasn't one thing, it would be another. The effort has been to delay the nominations that they have made controversial as long as possible in order to play to their left-wing base which will not accept the results of the election," McConnell said.

Some current employees of the EPA have openly protested Pruitt's nomination during a rally in Chicago near the agency's Region 5 offices. Pruitt is scheduled to address EPA employees in Washington on Tuesday.

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