Two weeks ago, Donald Trump sat down for a lengthy interview with the New York Times
, where he emphasized his commitment to the environment
. "I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important," the president-elect said. "Clean water -- crystal clean water -- is vitally important. Safety is vitally important."If his choice for the Environmental Protection Agency is any indication, Trump didn't mean a word of it
Donald Trump intends to select Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior transition official confirmed to NBC News Wednesday -- the clearest sign yet the president-elect will pursue an agenda that could undue President Obama's climate change legacy.An ally to the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt has aggressively fought against environmental regulations, becoming one of a number of attorneys general to craft a 28-state lawsuit against the Obama administration's rules to curb carbon emissions.
A Washington Post report
added that Pruitt "has spent much of his energy as attorney general fighting the agency he is being nominated to lead." That includes Pruitt's refusal to believe in climate change.Not to put too fine a point on this, but Scott Pruitt, if confirmed, will be the most anti-environmental EPA chief in history. He's practically a caricature of what a ridiculous Republican choice for the agency looks like.When Trump and one of his adult children met with Al Gore this week, some clung to hopes that the president-elect might temper some of his far-right attitudes and be halfway reasonable when it comes to natural resources. Those hopes now appear quite foolish. Pruitt's nomination is the punchline to a bad joke.The Oklahoman's name may seem familiar because of some important New York Times reporting
two years ago. As we discussed
at the time, Americans have probably grown accustomed to thinking about corporate-political alliances in Washington, D.C., with images of well-paid lobbyists working with allied lawmakers to try to curtail environmental safeguards, but the really
egregious actions are found at the state level.Most notably, Oklahoma, where Pruitt's office created an alliance in which energy firms, their lobbyists, and state officials effectively worked as partners
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma's biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon's chief of lobbying."Outstanding!" William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt's office. The attorney general's staff had taken Devon's draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general's signature. "The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House."Mr. Whitsitt then added, "Please pass along Devon's thanks to Attorney General Pruitt."
To be sure, Pruitt's office wasn't the only one implicated in these cringe-worthy alliances, but his office was the most brazen of the bunch, effectively working hand in glove with Big Oil.A majority of Americans voted against Donald Trump in this year's presidential election, but the Republican is now acting as if he's been given a powerful mandate to move the nation sharply to the right. When it comes to the environment, the damage will be severe, and in some cases, possibly even irreversible.