- Title: Trump's pick for environmental agency grilled by lawmakers
- Date: 18th January 2017
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (JANUARY 18, 2017) (UNRESTRICTED POOL) NATIVE AMERICAN WOMAN IN TRADITIONAL CLOTHING OUTSIDE SENATE HEARING ROOM APPARENTLY UPSET THAT SHE IS NOT BEING ALLOWED IN WIDE OF SENATE HEARING ROOM BEFORE SESSION BEGINS OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT, DONALD TRUMP'S CHOICE TO LEAD THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, GREETING A LAWMAKER BEFORE SESSION BEGINS WIDE OF SENATE LAWMAKERS WITH REPORTERS IN FOREGROUND (SOUNDBITE) (English) OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT, SAYING: "So if confirmed, I would lead the EPA with the following principles in mind. First, we must reject as a nation the false paradigm that if you're pro energy, you're anti-environment, and if you're pro-environment, you're anti energy. I utterly reject that narrative. (SENATORS LISTENING) In this nation, we can grow our economy, harvest the resources God has blessed us with while also being good stewards of the air, land and water by which we've been favored. It is not an either/or proposition." REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATOR FROM WYOMING, AND CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE, JOHN BARRASSO, SPEAKING (SOUNDBITE) (English) OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT, SAYING: "Science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue. As well it should be." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC VERMONT U.S. SENATOR, BERNIE SANDERS, IN AN EXCHANGE WITH OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT: SANDERS "You said that Mr. Trump was wrong in suggesting, in stating over and over again, that climate change was a - quote unquote - a hoax. Is that in fact the case?" PRUITT "That is correct Senator." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC VERMONT U.S. SENATOR, BERNIE SANDERS, SAYING: "So you are applying for a job as administrator for the EPA to protect our environment. Overwhelming majority of scientists say we got to act boldly. And you're telling me that there needs to be more debate on this issue?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC VERMONT U.S. SENATOR, BERNIE SANDERS, IN AN EXCHANGE WITH OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT: SANDERS "I'm asking your personal opinion." PRUITT "My personal opinion is immaterialâ€¦. " SANDERS "Really?" PRUITT "â€¦to the job ofâ€¦." SANDERS "You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial." PRUITT "Senator, I've acknowledged to you that the human activity impacts the impactsâ€¦." SANDERS "Impacts." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC VERMONT U.S. SENATOR, BERNIE SANDERS, SAYING: "If that's the kind of EPA administrator you will be, you're not going to get my vote." (PRUITT REACTING) WIDE OF SENATE LAWMAKERS AND REPORTERS VARIOUS OF DEMOCRATIC RHODE ISLAND U.S. SENATOR, SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, SPEAKING NEXT TO A BLUE CHART (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC RHODE ISLAND U.S. SENATOR, SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, SAYING: "(BRIEFLY OVER PRUITT) You haven't told us who you asked money from. You haven't told us what they gave, if you asked them. It's a complete black hole into which at least a million dollars goes. And based on your record of fundraising it appears that a great deal of your fundraising comes from these organizations who are in the energy sector, and devoted to fighting climate change." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC OREGON U.S. SENATOR, JEFF MERKLEY, IN AN EXCHANGE WITH OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT: MERKLEY "But you used your office as a direct extension of an oil company rather than a direct extension of the interests of the public health of the people of Oklahoma. Do you acknowledge that you presented a private oil company's position rather than a position developed by the people of Oklahoma?" PRUITT "Senator, with respect I disagree. The efforts that I took as Attorney General were representing the interest of the state of Oklahoma." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC OREGON U.S. SENATOR, JEFF MERKLEY, IN AN EXCHANGE WITH OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT: MERKLEY "Why do you need an outside oil company to draft a letter when you have 250 people working for you?" PRUITT "Senator, as I've indicated, that was an effort that was protecting the state's interests and making sure that we made the voices of all Oklahomans heard on a very important industry to our state." MERKLEY "You said 'all heard' but you only sent it on behalf of a single voice - the oil company. Thank you. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR, CORY BOOKER, SAYING: "So each of these lawsuits that I just went through, that that we analyzed, all of them challenge attempts by the EPA to reduce air pollution. In all of them except one, you filed those lawsuits joining with polluting companies that were also suing the EPA." OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT, AT TABLE (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR, CORY BOOKER, SAYING: "And so if you've been writing letters on behalf of polluting industries, I want to ask you how many letters you write to the EPA about this health crisis? If this is representative government, did you represent those children? I want to know what actions you've taken in the past six years in your capacity as protector of the welfare of Oklahoma's citizens to protect the welfare of those 111,000 children. Did you ever let any of them write letters on your letterhead to the EPA and did you even file one lawsuit - one lawsuit - on behalf of those kids?" OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SCOTT PRUITT, IN AN EXCHANGE WITH DEMOCRATIC NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR, CORY BOOKER: PRUITT "The state has to have an interest before it can bring those cases, as you know. You can't just bring a lawsuit if you don't have standing, if there's not been some injury to the state of Oklahoma. In each of those cases..." BOOKER "My time is expired but if I could just say 'injury'?" WIDE OF HEARING UNDER WAY
- Embargoed: 1st February 2017 18:27
- Keywords: U.S. President Donald Trump Scott Pruitt Congress Senate lawmakers hearing environment EPA nominee Environmental Protection Agency
- Location: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- City: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Reuters ID: LVA0015ZM0IMF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency after years as a caustic EPA critic, faced tough questions from lawmakers on Wednesday (January 18) about his ties to the energy industry and climate change doubts.
Pruitt, 48, expressed doubt about the science behind global climate change during a contentious Senate confirmation hearing, but added he would be obliged for now to uphold the EPA's finding carbon dioxide poses a public danger.
Pruitt sued the agency he intends to run more than a dozen times on behalf of his state, leading both his opponents and supporters to believe he will aggressively carry out Trump's campaign vows to slash EPA regulation to boost domestic oil and gas drilling and coal mining.
"Science tells us that the climate is changing, and that human activity, in some manner, impacts that change," Pruitt said during the hearing in front of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue."
Trump has promised to refocus the EPA on its core values of protecting air and water quality, while scrapping many of President Barack Obama's initiatives to combat climate change by targeting carbon dioxide emissions.
That stance has triggered an international diplomatic backlash, worried environmentalists, and cast a cloud of doubt over the future of a global pact to combat climate change and its effects, signed in Paris last year. U.S. government agencies said on Wednesday that world temperatures in 2016 hit a record high for the third year in a row.
In prepared remarks that were interrupted by protesters shouting "There is no planet B", Pruitt said he would seek to ensure environmental rules imposed by the EPA were effective, but without hurting development.
For weeks, environmental groups have campaigned to urge lawmakers to block Pruitt's nomination, saying he is doing the bidding of energy companies and industry groups that have contributed to his election campaigns.
During the hearing, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon showed a blown-up image of a letter Pruitt sent to the current EPA administrator several years ago opposing regulations limiting methane emissions from the energy sector. Merkley said it had been written by Oklahoma Company Devon Energy.
Pruitt responded by saying the letter was not sent on behalf of any one company but on behalf of an entire industry that is important to the state's economy.
New Jersey Democratic Senator Corey Booker later asked Pruitt if he had sent similar letters of behalf of Oklahoma citizens affected by pollution, citing statistics showing the state has among the highest asthma rates in the country.
"Did you even file one lawsuit on behalf of those kids?"
Republicans on the committee meanwhile focused their questions on how Pruitt will work to avoid pollution crises like the lead contamination crisis affecting Flint, Michigan, and criticized the Obama administration's climate regulations.
Pruitt's hearing is one of a series of sessions to vet Trump's senior appointees.
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