On February 2, 2017, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works voted to report to the full Senate the nomination of Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"). Mr. Pruitt's confirmation by the full Senate is expected this week.
Mr. Pruitt has been the attorney general of Oklahoma since 2011, and he previously served eight years in the Oklahoma State Senate. Mr. Pruitt's background also includes several years in private law practice, where he specialized in constitutional and employment issues. Unlike the prior EPA Administrator, Mr. Pruitt does not have an environmental science background.
During his time as attorney general, however, Mr. Pruitt has focused on environmental matters. For example, his personal website states that he "has led Oklahoma's legal challenges to … the EPA's intrusion into property rights." Similarly, Oklahoma's official website refers to Mr. Pruitt as a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda." Under Mr. Pruitt's leadership, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office has participated in several lawsuits against the EPA, including a challenge to the Clean Power Plan, a regulation concerning greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Oklahoma joined several state and industry petitioners in arguing that the Clean Power Plan is not authorized by the Clean Air Act and unconstitutionally commandeers and coerces states.
In his confirmation hearing, Mr. Pruitt similarly asserted that the EPA has exceeded its authority in the past: "I saw examples where the Agency became dissatisfied with the tools Congress has given it to address certain issues, and bootstrapped its own powers and tools through rulemaking. This, unfortunately, has resulted only in protracted litigation, where the courts suspended most of these rules after years of delay." Mr. Pruitt's opening statement also emphasized that the EPA should aim to be more cooperative with Congress and the states.
If Mr. Pruitt is confirmed as the new EPA Administrator, he may consider revising or rescinding the Clean Power Plan and other Obama-era environmental regulations, and could potentially have several means of doing so. The November 2016 publication, Energy and Environmental Ramifications of the Trump Election, provides additional information about the potential impact of the new Administration.