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Trump’s EPA pick gets a boost but is still opposed by Senate Democrats

Scott Pruitt, left, nominee to serve as Environmental Protection Agency, is welcomed on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the chairman of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Scott Pruitt, left, nominee to serve as Environmental Protection Agency, is welcomed on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the chairman of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. AP

President Donald Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environment Protection Agency got a lift Monday when the chair of a key Senate committee declared that the Oklahoma attorney general had been “comprehensively vetted,” and was in need of no further questioning.

“Attorney General Pruitt has had a very thorough confirmation process,” said John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in a statement. “At his nomination hearing, Mr. Pruitt answered significantly more questions than any past EPA administrator has. He has been comprehensively vetted and has demonstrated his qualifications to lead the EPA.”

It is not known when the Senate might vote on Pruitt, but it is unlikely to come in the next two days, when GOP lawmakers are slated to attend a retreat in Philadelphia.

Pruitt’s opponents haven’t given up efforts to derail Pruitt’s nomination. Several Senate Democrats have raised questions about the numerous lawsuits Pruitt has filed against the agency he would lead, along with his involvement in fundraising from oil and gas companies that stand to benefit from his lawsuits.

On Monday, the ranking Democrat on the Senate EPW committee, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, hosted a panel discussion on Pruitt’s nomination, attended by tribal leaders, environmentalists and lawyers from Oklahoma and elsewhere.

John Walke, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that Pruitt made several misleading statements in his confirmation hearing last week. In particular, said Walke, Pruitt told senators he wasn’t against EPA regulating mercury emissions and only had problems with the process the EPA had followed with those regulations.

According to Walke, Pruitt’s briefs filed in his lawsuit show that Pruitt made several arguments against EPA regulating mercury, arguing that the emissions from power plants are too miniscule to warrant regulation.

“It is a serious matter to give misleading testimony to Senators during a confirmation hearing,” said Walke. “Senators should not confirm a nominee that deliberately misleads them on such an important matter.”

Casey Camp-Horinek, a council woman for the Ponca Tribe in Oklahoma, said that Pruitt has taken little or no action to deal with earthquakes attributed to oil and gas fracking in her state.

Having Pruitt become EPA administrator “was likened in my community to putting Custer in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” she said, referring to George Armstrong Custer.

Stuart Leavenworth: @sleavenworth

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