Will Scott Pruit Nix The Clean Power Plan? Donald Trump's Pick Is An Environmentalist's Worst Nightmare

By now, nearly a month into Donald Trump’s transition, we’re more or less used to his stunning ability to pick people to head up the various departments of his administration most expertly suited to subvert their missions. None of us can say that his pick of Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma and EPA-hater, to head the EPA is all that shocking. But that shouldn’t prevent us from underscoring the devastating potential fallout of a Pruitt-run EPA. For starters, we can probably kiss Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan goodbye.

The plan has been in the works for a couple of years, and aims to curb the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — especially coal plants — by nearly a third by 2030. “We can figure this stuff out, as long as we’re not lazy about it,” the president said.

Well, Mr. Obama, I believe the nation is about to get very lazy. Pruitt has already made his position on the Clean Power Plan very clear. In an op-ed co-authored with Jonathan Small posted on The Hill in 2014, Pruitt made the case that the plan would most adversely affect the poor, and wouldn’t even help curb global warming anyway. He described it as a "rule that raises the cost of electricity, hurts the most poor among us, cuts domestic jobs and results in a dramatic re-shaping of the American electricity system."

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Pruitt’s positions, including the 28-state lawsuit filed against Obama’s plan, are consistent with the anti-science, anti-environmental platform of his boss-to-be, and with his intimate knowledge of the workings of the EPA and the Clean Power Plan, he’s well-suited to undo it.

The suit against the Coal Power Plan hinges on a mistake made in a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act: in the House version of the bill, the power of the EPA was restricted, whereas in the Senate version, the agency was granted broad powers. When the bill was signed by George H.W. Bush, it contained both contradictory amendments.

But in many ways, the EPA is like a car — when the administration applies pressure to the gas pedal (by passing regulations and imposing fines) things move forward. To stop things moving forward, all Pruitt and Trump have to do is take their foot off the gas.

I worry that the Trump-Pruit duo would essentially turn the EPA into a nonentity, which I suppose for small-government Republicans and Libertarians, is a dream come true, but for environmentalists, it’s a nightmare.

“Scott Pruitt running the EPA is like the fox guarding the henhouse,” said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters (and marking the second time that idiom has been used to describe a Trump appointee).


One Senator has already stated publicly he will oppose Pruitt’s appointment. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, said in a statement that “The health of our planet and our people is too important to leave in the hands of someone who does not believe in scientific facts or the basic mission of the EPA.” There was no immediate report on whetherSchatz dropped a mic following the statement’s release.