Exxon Mobil’s CEO is now the Secretary of State. The Koch Brothers’ Congressman is the CIA Director. We’ve already seen signs that the Trump Administration and the fossil fuel industry are merging. In this episode, hear the highlights of the confirmation hearings of the two men now most responsible for environmental law enforcement in the United States: Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Will they protect the environment from the fossil fuel industry or did President Trump appoint foxes to guard the henhouse?
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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes
- Article: Trump’s EPA is reconsidering a rule that limits mercury from power plants by Samantha Page, Think Progress, April 19, 2017.
- Article: ‘Like a slow death’: families fear pesticide poisoning after Trump reverses ban by Sam Levin, The Guardian, April 17, 2017.
- News Release: EPA Launches Back-To-Basics Agenda at Pennsylvania Coal Mine, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, April 13, 2017.
- Op-Ed: Now we know Scott Pruitt isn’t serious about fighting smog by Jack Lienke, Grist, April 12, 2017.
- Article: What’s at Stake in Trump’s Proposed E.P.A. Cuts by Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times, April 10, 2017.
- Article: Federal Judge Orders Supplemental EIS For Nevada Sage Grouse Plan by Richard Nemec, Natural Gas Intel, April 6, 2017.
- Article: E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide by Eric Lipton, The New York Times, March 29, 2017.
- Article: Herbert pushing for Interior Secretary Zinke to visit Utah and Bear Ears by Bryan Schott, UtahPolicy.com, March 27, 2017.
- Press Release: Interior Department Auctions Over 122,000 Acres Offshore Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for Wind Energy Development, U.S. Department of the Interior, March 16, 2017.
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- Article: Utah Representative Wants Bears Ears Gone And He Wants Trump To Do It by Kirk Siegler, NPR, February 5, 2017.
- Article: Good Question: What Exactly Is The Dakota Access Pipeline? by Heather Brown, CBS Minnesota, January 24, 2017.
- Document: State of the Air 2016 by The American Lung Association
- Article: Obama Designates Atlantic, Artic Areas Off-Limits To Offshore Drilling by Merrit Kennedy, NPR, December 20, 2016.
- Article: Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s Pick for Interior Secretary, and the Rising American Land Movements by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker, December 16, 2016.
- Press Release: Interior Department Announces Final Rule to Reduce Methane Emissions & Wasted Gas on Public, Tribal Lands, U.S. Department of the Interior, November 15, 2016.
- Article: Incumbent Ryan Zinke says security, jobs, health care top priorities by Holly Michels, Montana Standard, October 14, 2016.
- Article: Obama announces moratorium on new federal coal leases by Joby Warrick and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, January 15, 2016.
- Article: With Only $93 Billion in Profits, the Big Five Oil Companies Demand to Keep Tax Breaks by Daniel J. Weiss and Miranda Peterson, Center for American Progress, February 10, 2014.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010
- Fact Sheet: Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, US Department of the Interior
- U.S. Energy Information Administration: Natural Gas Overview
- U.S. Energy Information Administration: U.S. Energy Mapping System
- Environmental Protection Agency: EPA History
- Environmental Protection Agency: California Greenhouse Gas Waiver Request
- Environmental Protection Agency: Order denying petition to revoke tolerances for the pesticide chlorpyrifos
- GovTrack: On the Nomination PN31: Ryan Zinke, of Montana, to be Secretary of the Interior
- GovTrack: H.R. 5259 (114th): Certainty for States and Tribes Act Overview
- OpenSecrets: Sen. Lisa Murkowski – Summary
- OpenSecrets: Sen. Lisa Murkowski – Career Profile
Sound Clip Sources
Hearing: Interior Secretary Confirmation – Ryan Zinke, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, January 17, 2017.
Timestamps & Transcripts
- 42:54 Senator Lisa Murkowski: Will you commit to a formal review of all of the Obama administration’s actions that took resource-bearing lands and waters in Alaska effectively off the table, including the decisions that specifically prevented the leasing of those lands and those waters for development, and determine whether or not they can be reversed? Ryan Zinke: Yes. I think the president-elect has said that we want to be energy independent. As a former Navy Seal, I think I’ve been to 63 countries in my lifetime, and I can guarantee it is better to produce energy domestically under [missing audio] than watch it be produced overseas with no regulation. I’ve seen the consequences of what happens when you don’t have any regulation in the Middle East. We can do it right. The backbone of our environmental policies has been NEPA, and I’m a strong supporter of NEPA, but we also have to understand that we need an economy. And, look, if we don’t have an economy as a country, then the rest of it doesn’t matter, because we’re not going to be able to afford a strong military, nor are we going to be able to afford to keep the promises we’ve made as a great nation; and we’ve made a lot of promises to education, to our children’s future, to infrastructure, to Social Security; all that takes an economy that’s moving forward, and energy is a part of that economy, and Alaska is a critical part of that economy. Alaska’s different for a reason: you are blessed with great resources, you are blessed with great recreation—a little cold in the winter, but it’s not Palm Springs. Murkowski: You’re from Montana. You can handle it. Zinke: We can handle it. But, yes, I think we need to be prudent. And always, I think we need to review things to make sure we’re doing it right because over time the government keeps on getting bigger and bigger, the bureaucracy gets larger and larger, and we can’t get something done.
- 53:12 Senator John Hoeven: Also in North Dakota, we’ve had a real challenge with the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. You and I talked about it. State and local law enforcement has worked very hard to keep the peace and to keep people safe, but we need federal law-enforcement help as well, and so in your case, that’s going mean BIA law enforcement. And, so, my question is, if you’re confirmed, will you ensure that BIA law enforcement works with state and local law enforcement to resolve the situation, to keep people safe, and to make sure that the rule of law is followed? Ryan Zinke: Yes, sir. And we talked about it in your office, and if confirmed, I’m going to be a very busy man, travelling. I’m going to travel to Utah, travel to Alaska, and travel to North Dakota. Those are three impending problems that we need to resolve quickly. I have great respect for the Indian nations. I’m adopted Assiniboine. Last time the Sioux Nations all got together, I would say General Custer probably would say that was not a good issue. So, you look at this, and there is deep cultural ties, there is a feeling that we haven’t been a fair consultant, a fair partner, and so I think we need to listen to that voice.
- 57:45 Senator Bernie Sanders: President-elect Trump has suggested—more than suggested—stated in his view that climate change is a “hoax.” Now I know that you’re not here to be administrator of the EPA or secretary of the Energy, but the issue of climate change is in fact very important for issues that the Department of Interior deals with. Is President-elect Trump right? Is climate change a hoax? Ryan Zinke: I can give you—the best answer is three things: First of all, climate is changing. That’s indisputable. I’m from Glacier National Park, and I’ve seen— Sanders: You don’t have any more glaciers there, huh? Zinke: Well—and I’ve seen glaciers over the period of my time recede. Matter of fact, when my family and I have eaten lunch on Grinnell Glacier, the glacier has receded during lunch. Sanders: All right. But I have—if you could— Zinke: Yeah. Sanders: —is the president-elect right? Is climate change a hoax? Zinke: Well, if I can give you two more points— Sanders: Okay. Zinke: —I’ll make it short. The second thing is man has had an influence. I don’t think—I think that’s indisputable as well. So, climate is changing, man is an influence. I think where there’s debate on it is what that influence is, what can we do about it, and as the Department of Interior, I will inherit, if confirmed, the USGS. We have great scientists there. I’m not a climate-scientist expert, but I can tell you I will become a lot more familiar with it, and it’ll be based on objective science. I don’t believe it’s a hoax; I believe we should— Sanders: You do not believe it’s a hoax. Zinke: No. I believe we should be prudent to be prudent. That means I don’t know definitively; there’s a lot of debate on both sides of the aisle— Sanders: Well, actually, there’s not a whole lot of debate now. The scientific community is virtually unanimous that climate change is real and causing devastating problems. There is the debate on this committee but not within the scientific community.
- 59:40 Senator Bernie Sanders: If climate change is already causing devastating problems, should we allow fossil fuel to be drilled on public lands? Ryan Zinke: Again, we need an economy and jobs, too. And I, in my experience, have probably seen 63 different countries. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t have regulated— Sanders: I’m taking your—I don’t mean to be rude, but this is not a whole lot—I’m taking your answer to be yes, we should allow fossil fuel to be drilled on public lands. Zinke: I’m an all-the-above energy, and I want to be honest with you—I’m all the above. Sanders: Will you encourage wind and solar on public lands? Zinke: I will encourage, absolutely, wind and sol—all the above. Sanders: Okay. Zinke: So I think that’s the better solution going forward is all-the-above energy.
- 1:00:40 Ryan Zinke: I want to be clear in this point: I am absolutely against transfer or sale of public land.
- 1:39:40 Senator John Barrasso: The war on coal: it is real for communities across the West, including Wyoming, including Montana; it’s devastated small towns, ultimately threatens our country’s energy security. If confirmed, will you commit to ending this moratorium on federal coal leasing? Ryan Zinke: The war on coal, I believe, is real. I have Decker, Montana, in my area, and behind me is a gentleman that works in the coal mines of the Crow Agency, which, by the way, the Crow Agency, if you were to take coal out of the picture, the unemployment rate would probably in the 90 percent. So they’re very keen on making sure they have their jobs and we give them the ability for self-determination. The moratorium, I think, was an example of many, is that one size fits all. It was a view from Washington and not a view from the states, particularly if you’re a state such as Wyoming, parts of Montana, West Virginia, where coal’s important. So overall, the president-elect has made a commitment to end “ the war on coal.” I think we should be smart on how we approach our energy. “All the above” is a correct policy. Coal is certainly a great part of our energy mix. To your point, I’m also a great believer that we should invest in the research and development, particularly on coal, because we know we have the asset. Let’s work together to make it cleaner, better. We should be leading the world in clean-energy technology, and I’m pretty confident that coal can be a part of that.
- 1:41:36 Senator John Barrasso: With the use of the Congressional Review Act, and I’m planning introducing a disapproval resolution on the BLM’s venting and flaring rule. To me that rule far exceeds the authority of the BLM, will ultimately put federal lands at a greater competitive disadvantage to state and private lands. Will you support our efforts to reverse this rule under the Congressional Review Act? Ryan Zinke: Yes, and I think what the driving force is is we’re venting a lot, and we’re wasting energy. And that is troubling to me, is that the amount of venting in North Dakota alone almost exceeds what we get out of the fields. So, a lot of the wasting can be approached by having an infrastructure. So let us build a system where we capture that energy that is otherwise being wasted. And that’s an enormous opportunity. It’s an enormous opportunity, our natural gas and geopolitically as well. We haven’t talked a lot about overseas, but energy is so critically important. If we want to check Russia, then let’s do it with liquid natural gas. If we want to put pressure on Iran, then let’s supplant every drop of Iranian crude. This is all part of a larger package, and it cannot be done without the great state of Wyoming and their assets, or Alaska. But we have to think globally on it, and it is better—and I’ve said this once before—but it is better to produce energy in America under reasonable regulation and get better over time than watch it be produced overseas with no regulation. That is indisputable.
- 1:43:23 Senator John Barrasso: And I want to talk about sage grouse management plans. The administration has ignored input from key stakeholders, including Western governors during the development of their plans, plans which were used to justify [missing audio] unwarranted status under the Endangered Species Act. But at the core, the plans fundamentally oppose the multiple-use mandates of the BLM, which includes grazing, recreation, energy development. Will you commit to returning conservation and management authority of the sage grouse back to the states in preventing this top-down mandate like this in the future? Ryan Zinke: My understanding is the sage grouse decision is going to come before the Department of Interior some time in March. I understand there’s going to be options and alternatives, proposed alternatives. I will work with you when I see those documents, and I’ll work with all of you when I see those documents, to make sure we’re doing the right thing. What concerns me about sage grouse is there’s no target number. I’m not sure how you can manage without a number. If we just grab a management of property without a number, I look at that with a suspect eye. So I think we’ve got to look at, everyone loves sage grouse, everyone understands that we have to protect the species, and generally those living in the ground are in a better position, and we should be an advocate and a partner in this rather than heavy-handed and just dictate terms, particularly when we don’t have a number.
- 2:33:40 Senator Mazie Hirono: In the discussion about energy, you’ve said a number of times that you support “all of the above,” which sounds really great except that in “all of the above,” what’s happened is that the fossil-fuel side of energy has gotten a lot of support over decades. So I hope that when you say “all of the above” that you will also be committed to providing more resources and support, particularly R&D for alternative and renewables, aside from, or in addition to, fossil fuels. So we need to have a more-level playing field for policies that truly reflect support for “all of the above.” Ryan Zinke: Yeah. I’ve always been a strong proponent on the record for research and development of different technologies, different innovations, different opportunities in this complete spectrum of the energy to include looking at traditional sources to make sure we’re better at doing that, you know, certainly horizontal drilling, fracking— Hirono: Yeah. Zinke: —coal. But “all the above” I think is the right approach. And when it comes out of the test tube and into fielding, energy needs to be affordable, reliable, and abundant.
- 12:15 Ryan Zinke: On the Gateway Pacific Terminal, what I raised my eyebrow on is I didn’t take a position, whether yes or no, on the Terminal. I took a position to make sure the NEPA process was followed and the EIS was completed before making a judgment. What I found was we were close to ending the NEPA process, with the EIS, after years and millions of dollars were spent on it, and then that was truncated and stopped by affidavits—and I didn’t judge whether the affidavits from the tribe were true or not true—if you don’t finish the NEPA process and don’t finish an EIS, and then all of a sudden that process can be interrupted and a permit can be pulled on the basis of something outside the EIS, why would you ever consent to spend millions of dollars on an EIS? That was my objection. And I don’t mean to speak for Senator Daines. Senator Maria Cantwell: So, you believe in the tribal sovereignty of the Lummi tribe to object in this case. Zinke: They certainly had every right to object as well as, in this case, the Crows, who also have a treaty obligation.
- 15:06 Senator Steve Daines: You have been a champion fighting on behalf of the Crow tribes, as you mentioned here in that last exchange, their sovereign right to develop their coal resources. And as you said in your testimony, the unemployment rate in Crow country will go north of 90 percent if they lose those jobs.
Hearing: EPA Administrator Confirmation – Scott Pruitt, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, January 18, 2017.
Timestamps & Transcripts
- 01:30 Chairman John Barrasso: Good morning. I call this hearing to order. We have a quite a full house today. I welcome the audience. This is a formal Senate hearing, and in order to allow the committee to conduct its business, we’ll maintain decorum. That means if there are disorders, demonstrations, by a member of the audience, the person causing the disruption will be escorted from the room by the Capitol Police.
- 22:50: Senator Jim Inhofe: Yes, as attorney general, Scott Pruitt has fought the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the oil companies, and the out-going administration on many fronts, but all of these suits were brought to protect state and local interests from overzealous and activist executive agencies. Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has advanced a radical environmental agenda, has exhibited a deep distrust of state governments and private land owners, and has worked to obstruct the fossil-fuel industry and agriculture producers, the most-ardent protectors of the environment.
- 29:52 Scott Pruitt: I would lead the EPA with the following principles in mind: First, we must reject as a nation that false paradigm that if you’re pro-energy, you’re anti-environment; and if you’re pro-environment, you’re anti-energy. I really reject that narrative. 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. Next, we should celebrate the great progress we’ve made as a nation since the inception of the EPA and the laws that have been passed by this body, but recognize that we have much work to do. Third, rule of law matters. Process matters. It inspires confidence in those that are regulated. The law is static, not transient. Regulators are supposed to make things regular, to fairly and equitably enforce the rules and not pick winners and losers. A regulator should not be for or against any sector of our economy; instead, a regulator ought to follow the law in setting up the rules so that those who are regulated can plan, allocate resources, to meet the standards versus operating in a state of uncertainty and duress. Fourth, federalism matters. It matters because Congress says so. And because we need to achieve good outcomes as a nation for air and water quality, we need the partnership of the states to achieve that. It is our state regulators who oftentimes best understand the local needs and the uniqueness of our environmental challenges, plus our state regulators possess the resources and expertise to enforce our environmental laws. Fifth, public participation is key. We need to hear all voices as we make decisions in behalf of our country with respect to environmental laws.
- 39:07 Senator Tom Carper: In 2011 the EPA required dirty coal power plants to clean up mercury and air toxic emissions by issuing the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. This rule will reduce the mercury, a neurotoxin that contaminates our streams and our oceans, pollutes our fish, and harms our children’s health. As attorney general, I believe you’ve been part of at least 14 legal cases against the EPA, and at least three of these cases against the EPA’s rules, to reduce mercury emissions from power plants. Is that correct? Just yes or no. Scott Pruitt: Senator, we have been involved in litigation around the MATS rule. Carper: Is that correct? Yes or no. Pruitt: As I indicated, yes, we’ve been a part of litigation involving the MATS rule. Carper: Thank you. It’s my understanding that at least one of these cases against the mercury rule is still pending. Is that correct? Just yes or no. Pruitt: I believe so, Senator, yes. Carper: Thank you.
- 43:40 Senator Jim Inhofe: I’m glad you brought up this thing about the Clean Air Act. The amendments from 1990, I was one of the cosponsors, it’s been incredibly successful. I mean, you mentioned that we’ve reduced those pollutants by 63 percent, but what you didn’t add was that it is in spite of the fact that we had 153 percent increase in our economic activity. That’s a major thing.
- 48:52 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: In Rhode Island, we have bad air days, and because of EPA’s work, there are fewer and fewer. A bad air day is a day when people driving into work hear on the radio that ozone from out-of-state smokestacks has made the air in Rhode Island dangerous and that infants and the elderly and people with breathing difficulties should stay home on an otherwise beautiful day. Because those smokestacks are out of state, we need EPA to protect us, and I see nothing in your record that would give a mom taking her child to the hospital for an asthma attack any comfort that you would take the slightest interest in her. And your passion for devolving power down to states doesn’t help us, because our state regulators can’t do anything about any of those problems; they all come from out-of-state sources.
- 49:45 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: One of the things I’d like to ask you about here is the connection between you and some of these fossil-fuel companies. These are some of the companies that have supported you. These are some of the political organizations that you’ve raised money for. You’ve raised money for them for Pruitt for Attorney General, correct? Scott Pruitt: Yes, sir. I have a campaign committee for that, yes. Whitehouse: And Devon Energy, Koch Industries, ExxonMobil have all maxed out to that account. Pruitt: I’m not aware— Whitehouse: At various times. Pruitt: —if they maxed out or not, Senator, but I’m sure they’ve given to that committee. Whitehouse: Oklahoma Strong PAC is your leadership PAC? Pruitt: It was, yes. Whitehouse: It was? And, similarly, they gave money, they maxed out to that organization as well, which you controlled? Pruitt: I’m unsure about that, Senator. Whitehouse: Okay. But they contributed to it. Pruitt: I’m even unsure about that as well. I haven’t looked at that. Whitehouse: You closed your super PAC, Liberty 2.0, but that took fossil-fuel contributions as well, correct? Pruitt: That particular entity has been closed, yes. Whitehouse: Now, you helped raise money for the Republican Attorney General’s Association. While you were a member of its executive committee, they received $530,000 from Koch Industries, $350,000 from Murray Energy, $160,000 from ExxonMobil, and $125,000 from Devon Energy, the company whose letter you transposed onto your letterhead and sent as an Oklahoma attorney general document.
- 1:11:57 Senator Jeff Merkley: Over a number of years, information started pouring into EPA that the estimate of the amount of fugitive methane escaping in gas and oil drilling had been deeply underestimated. In 2011 the EPA put out its best estimates based on the information that was being presented. And this is relevant because methane is a global-warming gas, more potent than CO2. Gas companies didn’t like this because, well, it presented a vision of natural gas being more damaging environmentally than folks had previously understood. Devon Energy is one of the groups that sought to cast doubt on this scientific information, and it came to you to be their spokesperson, and they asked, will you be our mouthpiece in casting doubt and send a letter we have drafted to the EPA, and you sent that letter. And I just want to ask, first, are you aware that methane is approximately 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global-warming gas? Scott Pruitt: I am, Senator. It’s— Merkley: Thank you. Pruitt: —the impact on human health— Merkley: That’s the answer. Yes. Thank you. It’s a yes-no question. And on a one to 10 scale, how concerned are you about the impacts of fugitive methane in driving global warming? Pruitt: Methane, as you indicated, has— Merkley: One to 10 scale. Highly, 10, very concerned; or one, not so concerned? Pruitt: The quantities of methane in the atmosphere compared to CO2 is less, but it’s far more potent, and it is— Merkley: Are you concerned? I’m asking about your level of concern. Pruitt: Yes, yes. Merkley: Highly concerned? Pruitt: I’m concerned. Merkley: Thank you.
- 1:13:34 Senator Jeff Merkley: Do you acknowledge sending this letter to the EPA in October 2011? Pruitt: Senator, that is a letter that’s on my letterhead that was sent to the EPA, yes, with respect to the issue. Merkley: You acknowledge that 97 percent of the words in that letter came directly from Devon Energy? Pruitt: I have not looked at the percentages, Senator. Merkley: The statement that’s been analyzed many times is that all of the 1,016 words, except for 37 words, were written directly by Devon Energy. Pruitt: Senator, that was a step that was taken as attorney general representing the interest of our state. Over 25 percent of our— Merkley: Yeah, so, I didn’t ask that question. I was just asking if you copied the letter virtually word for word. You have acknowledged that, yes, it’s in the record, people can count it, is correct. All right, so, a public office is about serving the public. There is a public concern over the impact of methane on global warming. There is scientific research showing that it’s far more devastating than anticipated and far more is leaking than—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 interests of the state of Oklahoma. Merkley: Earlier you said you— Pruitt: And there was a concern about— Merkley: No, no, excuse me. I’m asking the questions. You said earlier you listen to everyone. In drafting this letter, you took an oil company’s position, and then, without consulting people who had diverse views about the impact, you sent it off. How can you present that as representing the people of Oklahoma when you simply only consulted an oil company to push its own point of view for its private profit? Pruitt: Senator, there’s an obligation the EPA has to follow processes as established by this body. The cost-benefit analysis under Section 112 is something that they have to engage in. There was a concern about the overestimated percentages that the EPA put in the record—it was a record-based challenge—that was the expression of the letter to the EPA, and it was representing the interests of an industry in the state of Oklahoma— Merkley: Thank you. Pruitt: —not a company, an industry. Merkley: So, my question was, what other groups—environmental groups or other groups—did you consult so that you had that full perspective before representing simply a for-profit oil company using your official office and your official letterhead? Pruitt: There—I consulted with other environmental officials in Oklahoma that regulate that industry and learned from them with respect to the concerns about the estimates that were provided by the EPA. Merkley: Can you provide this committee with information showing who you consulted in representing this letter specifically for Devon Energy, because the information that’s in the public realm only shows that they simply sent you a letter, asked you to send it, and you sent it without questions. Pruitt: We have seven or so individuals in our office that are involved in these kinds of issues, and we will collect the information they have and provide it to this body pursuant to the chairman’s direction. Merkley: Your staff expanded substantially while you were in charge, to 251 staff members. 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 interest in making sure that we made the voices of all Oklahomans heard on a very important industry to our state. Merkley: You said that all heard, but you only sent it on behalf of a single voice: the oil company. Pruitt: That— Merkley: Thank you.
- 1:24:11 Senator Cory Booker: You’ve joined or filed 14 lawsuits against the EPA, challenging clean air and clean-water rules, yes? Scott Pruitt: We’ve been involved in multiple pieces of litigation, Senator. Booker: Yeah, but I’m looking at specifically 14, and, Mr. Chairman, I’d like to put those 14 lawsuits into the record, of where you specifically challenged the EPA on air quality. And let me just go through some of those. Chairman Barrasso: Without objection. Booker: Thank you, sir. To refresh your recollection, you filed two lawsuits challenging the EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards; you filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone; you filed four lawsuits challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan; you have sued to challenge the EPA’s 111(b) standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants; and you also sued to challenge the EPA’s Federal Implementation Plan for Oklahoma under the Regional Haze rule. You’re familiar with those, I imagine. Pruitt: Yes, Senator. Booker: And you filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, something in New Jersey we’re very concerned with. And are you aware that that Rule, which you lost in that suit, scientists estimate that that alone prevents 400,000 asthma attacks nationally each year? Are you aware or those estimations? Pruitt: Yes, Your Honor. Or, yes, Senator. May I offer— Booker: I appreciate your promotion to judge. Let me continue, Mr. Pruitt. I don’t have that much time. Pruitt: Okay. Booker: So, each of these lawsuits that I just went through and 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. And, so, in addition to filing those lawsuits with some of the polluting companies, or at least one that has now been specifically mentioned by two of my colleagues, you used substantial portions of the letters from those companies, put them on your official attorney general letterhead; and what was sort of surprising to me is that when you’ve been asked about this in the public, you basically represented that, “That’s actually called representative government in my view of the world.” Your testimony here says that you were representing industry; you were representing the polluters. And, so, with all of these lawsuits you filed, and with all of these letters like this one written to the EPA, on behalf of the industries that are causing the pollution, it seems clear to me that obviously the fact pattern on representing polluters is clear, that you worked very hard on behalf of these industries that have their profits externalized, negative externalities are their pollution. And, so, I just have a question for you specifically about the children of Oklahoma. Do you know how many kids in Oklahoma, roughly, have asthma? Pruitt: I do not, Senator. Booker: Well, according to the data published by the very non-partisan group, the American Lung Association, more than 111,000 children in Oklahoma, which is more than 10 percent, more than one in 10 of all the kids in Oklahoma, have asthma. That’s one of the highest asthma rates in the entire United States of America. Now, this is a crisis—similar data, for where I was mayor—and I can tell you firsthand the devastating impacts that asthma has on children and families: affecting their economic well-being; parents who have to watch their children struggle to breathe; people that have to miss work, rushing their kids to the hospital. One in 10 kids having a disease, missing school, is a significant problem. And so if you’ve been writing letters on behalf of polluting industries, I want to ask you, how many letters did 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 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 to reduce the air pollution in your state and help them to have a healthy life? Pruitt: Senator, I’ve actually provided a list of cases to the chairman with respect to enforcement steps we’ve taken in multiple pieces of environmental litigation, but let me say to you, with respect to Cross-State Air Pollution and some of the cases you referred to, 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, the court determined that there was a state interest— Booker: My time has expired, but if I could just say, injury, clearly asthma is triggered and caused by air pollutants. Clearly there is an air pollution problem, and the fact that you have not brought suits in any of the levels which you’ve represented the industries that are causing the pollution is really problematic when you’re going to sit in a position that is nationally supposed to be affecting this reality. And asthma in our country is the number one reason why children in America, health reason, why children in America miss school.
- 1:37:28 Senator Ed Markey: Eight of those cases are still ongoing, including your litigation that challenges critical rules that reduce levels of hazardous smog, mercury, and carbon pollution. As EPA administrator, you would be in a position to serve as plaintiff, defendant, judge, and jury on these ongoing eight lawsuits, and that would be wrong. In your ethics agreement, you have said that you would not participate in any matter that is ongoing litigation within one year, but, Mr. Pruitt, isn’t it correct that these lawsuits may very well continue for much longer than one year? Scott Pruitt: Well, Senator, I have the letter from the ethics counsel at the EPA, and the one-year time period is intended to address covered entities, entities that I served in a chairmanship or an officer capacity. The Southern Theological Seminary, the Windows Ministry, those entities are covered entities. So if there is a matter that arises before the EPA within a one-year period, a particular matter, a specific case that involves those entities, then the recusal would be in order. But that’s really the focus of the one-year timeline. Markey: So, will you agree to recuse yourself from those lawsuits which you brought as the attorney general of Oklahoma against the EPA, not just for one year, but for the entirety of the time that you are the administrator of the EPA? Will you commit to doing that? Pruitt: Senator, for clarity, I think that it’s important to note that the one-year time period, again, is for those covered entities that were highlighted in the EPA letter. With respect to pending litigation, the EPA ethics counsel has indicated, with respect to particular matters and specific parties, there will be an opportunity to get counsel from the EPA at that point to determine what steps could be taken to avoid appearances of impropriety. Markey: So, you will not recu—are you saying that you will not recuse yourself from the actual matters which you’re suing the EPA on right now as attorney general of Oklahoma for the time that you are the head of the EPA? Pruitt: I’m not saying that at all, Senator. Markey: You are saying that. Will you recuse yourself? Pruitt: I’m saying that the EPA ethics counsel has indicated those cases will require a review by the EPA ethics counsel, and if it involves a particular matter with a specific party, then recusal would potentially be in order, and I would follow the guidance and counsel of EPA ethics. Markey: I just think this is—this is a clear line for the American public, given your record from Oklahoma in suing the EPA on all of these matters, that if you don’t agree to recuse yourself, then, again, you become plaintiff, defendant, judge, and jury on the cases that you’re bringing right now as attorney general of Oklahoma against the EPA; and the EPA is for all of the people of the United States, not just the fossil-fuel industry of Oklahoma. So you’re not committing—and I think that’s a big mistake, Mr. Pruitt—to recuse yourself from those cases. It is critical.
- 2:19:49 Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: I’ve looked at your record. Most of the lawsuits you filed as attorney general were related to businesses, specifically what was important for your state in terms of employers and businesses, and the few lawsuits you did file about human safety were few and far between, but this role as head of the EPA, you’re going to have a much more important role to play. And I want to talk specifically about mercury. If you believe that mercury is a threat to public health but oppose the remedy of reducing mercury air pollution from power plants because it’s too costly, what, then, do you think you should do or what should be done to address the mercury pollution? Scott Pruitt: Let me say, Senator, mercury is something—it is a hazardous air pollutant under Section 112. It is something that the EPA has authority to regulate and should regulate. It should do so, though, within the framework established by this body, and the Supreme Court said that the EPA did not follow the cost-benefit obligations. It’s not that the benefits outweigh the costs, it’s just that they simply didn’t engage in a proper record-based support for their rule. And so that goes back to earlier questions with other senators about the process mattering, being committed to the rule of law and the rulemaking authority that Congress has given the EPA in making sure that as rules are passed, that they can be upheld in court. Gillibrand: But, I need you also to be worried about human health. I understand there’s a cost, but when you’re talking about lives, when you’re talking about children who can’t breathe—I’ve been to the emergency room at two in the morning with a child who can’t breathe; it’s a horrible thing. We’ve had children die in New York City because none of their teachers, no administrators in the schools knew what to do when a child has an asthma attack. It’s a huge problem. So I need you to care about human health and really believe that the cost, when human health is at risk, when people are dying, is far higher than it is the cost to that polluter to clean up the air and change their processes. I need you to feel it as if your children sitting behind you are the ones in the emergency room. I need you to know it.
- 2:31:32 Senator Bernie Sanders: And I apologize for being late, but we were at a hearing with Congressman Price, who is the nominee for HHS, and perhaps not a great idea to have important nominating hearings at exactly the same time.
- 2:33:30 Scott Pruitt: I believe the ability to measure with precision the degree of human activity’s impact on the climate is subject to more debate on whether the climate is changing or the human activity contributes to it. Senator Bernie Sanders: While you are not certain, the vast majority of scientists are telling us that if we do not get our act together and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, there is a real question as to the quality of the planet that we are going to be leaving our children and our grandchildren. So, you are applying for a job as administrator for the EPA to protect our environment; overwhelming majority of scientists say we have got to act boldly, and you are telling me that there needs to be more debate on this issue and that we should not be acting boldly. Pruitt: No, Senator. As I’ve indicated, the climate is changing, and human activity impacts that. Sanders: But you haven’t told me why you think the climate is changing. Pruitt: Well, Senator, the job of the administrator is to carry out the statutes as passed by this body and to _ Sanders: Why is the climate changing? Pruitt: Senator, in response to the CO2 issue, the EPA administrator is constrained by statutes Sanders: I’m asking you a personal opinion. Pruitt: My personal opinion is immaterial— Sanders: Really?! Pruitt: —to the job of carrying out— 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 climate. Sanders: Impacts. Pruitt: Yes. Sanders: Scientific community doesn’t tell us it impacts; they say it is the cause of climate change, we have to transform our energy system. Do you believe we have to transform our energy system in order to protect the planet for future generations? Pruitt: I believe the EPA has a very important role at regulating the emissions of CO2. Sanders: You didn’t answer my question. Do you believe we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, to do what the scientific community is telling us, in order to make sure that this planet is healthy for our children and grandchildren? Pruitt: Senator, I believe that the administrator has a very important role to perform in regulating CO2. Sanders: Can you tell me, as I think all of us know, Oklahoma has been subjected to a record-breaking number of earthquakes. Scientists say that Oklahoma is almost certain to have more earthquakes, with heightened risk of a large quake, probable to endure for a decade and that the cause of this is fracking. Can you point me—picking up on Senator Harris’s discussion with you, can you point me to any opinion that you wrote, any enforcement actions you took, against the companies that were injecting waste fracking water? Pruitt: Senator, let me say I’m very concerned about the connection between activity in Oklahoma and- Sanders: And, therefore, you must have taken action, I guess. Can you tell me who you fined for doing this, if you are very concerned? Pruitt: The Corporation Commission in Oklahoma is vested with the jurisdiction, and they have actually acted on that. Sanders: And you have made public statements expressing your deep concern about this. Pruitt: We have worked with, through our- Sanders: You have made public statements. You’re in a state which is seeing a record-breaking number of earthquakes. You’re the attorney general. Obviously, you have stood up and said you will do everything you can to stop future earthquakes as a result of fracking. Pruitt: Senator, I’ve acknowledged that I’m concerned about the- Sanders: You acknowledged that you are concerned. Pruitt: Yes. Sanders: Your state is having a record number of—well, if that’s the kind of administrator for the EPA—your state’s having a record-breaking number of earthquakes, you acknowledge you are concerned; if that’s the kind of EPA administrator you will be, you are not going to get my vote.
- 2:37:43 Senator John Barrasso: I want to talk about some of the concerns I have with overregulation, and I’ll ask, do you have the same concerns with the overregulation of U.S. manufacturing over the last eight years? I believe we’ve _____(00:08) exported manufacturing jobs overseas, jobs that go with them in terms of the manufacturing of those goods to places like China and India that are going to produce those products in a less environmentally friendly way. And do you agree with this notion that this approach harms not just the environment, but also our own U.S. economy? Pruitt I believe, Senator, that it puts us in an economic disadvantage when we don’t hear all voices in the rulemaking process with respect to these issues, absolutely.
- 17:04 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: Let me just ask you this as a hypothetical: if you had raised significant amounts of money for the Rule of Law Defense Fund from corporations who will be subject to EPA’s regulation, before EPA, with matters before EPA, might that place you in a conflict of interest? Scott Pruitt: The EPA ethics counsel has said—and by the way, these are career individuals as you know, Senator. Justina Fugh is a career person at EPA ethics, and so as they’ve reviewed these potential conflicts, I’ve disclosed all entities I’ve been affiliated with. Whitehouse: I understand that, but I’m asking you if you think it might place you in a conflict of interest, because we both understand that the ethics rules that the EPA’s enforcing predate Citizens United, predate dark money, and they’ve said in the letter that they aren’t even looking at that because they don’t have the authority to. That doesn’t mean it’s not a conflict of interest; it means that the regulatory authority on government ethics hasn’t caught up with this post-Citizens United, dark-money world. Pruitt: I think— Whitehouse: My question is, you’re a lawyer, you know conflicts of interest, you’ve been an attorney general, might it be a conflict of interest, within your definition of the term, if you had raised significant amounts of money for this Rule of Law Defense Fund and they’ll have business before EPA with you? Is that a potential conflict of interest? Pruitt: I think Justina Fugh actually did address those entities to the degree that I was never an officer of the super PAC that you referred to earlier, the Liberty 2.0, and so they looked at those entities to determine— Whitehouse: The question was fund raising. Pruitt: They looked at those entities— Whitehouse: That’s the question we don’t have any answers on is what you raised. Pruitt: They looked at those entities to determine what the nature of my relationship was and then indicated that those would have to be evaluated in the future as cases arose, and— Whitehouse: Right now, the chairman asked you a question which is, are there matters that might place you in a conflict of interest that you have not disclosed? You answered no. Might not having raised significant money—let’s say $1 million, let’s say you made a call to Devon Energy and said, I did you letter for you, RAGA needs a lot of money, we’ve got this dark-money thing where we can launder your identity clean off it, and the money will go into RAGA, I need a million bucks out of you—might that not create a conflict of interest for you if that were the facts? Pruitt: Ms. Fugh has indicated in her letter to me—again, these are career individuals at EPA ethics—that if particular matters involving specific parties arise in the future, it will be evaluated at that point, but I want to call into account— Whitehouse: But how will they know if you’re not willing to disclose that you raised the hypothetical million dollars from Devon Energy? Pruitt: Well, those aren’t even covered entities under her letter at this point. Whitehouse: That’s my point. Pruitt: But it’s factual— Whitehouse: But that may very well create a conflict of interest, mightn’t it? Pruitt: Senator, I did not serve in an office or capacity at that entity. In fact, I was not [unclear] in any way— Whitehouse: You’ve said that already, too, but that also is not the question. The question is a very simple one: did you raise money for the Rule of Law Defense Fund from entities that will appear before EPA as potential defendants in subjects of regulation, and if so, how much, and what did you tell them, and what did you ask? It seems to me that’s not an unusual or— Pruitt: The Rule of Law Defense Fund, according to Ms. Fugh, would need to be a party in the future for that to be an issue. That’s what she’s indicated in her letter to me. Whitehouse: So— Pruitt: At the time— Whitehouse: So let me— Pruitt: —if issues arise in the future, I will seek the counsel of EPA ethics and follow the advice of those career folks to make a decision and recuse if necessary. That is— Whitehouse: But at this point— Pruitt: —something I commit to doing. Whitehouse: At this point, what I deduce from your statement is that if that set of hypothetical facts were true, if you had raised a million dollars from a big energy corporation to go through the Rule of Law Defense Fund to support your efforts at RAGA, that that is not something anybody should care about, even if that corporation is before you at EPA and subject to your regulation at EPA. Pruitt: Well, I think something that, if presented in the future, Justina Fugh and myself, EPA ethics would evaluate that, and I would take the appropriate steps to recuse if they told me to do so. Whitehouse: But how would it be presented in the future if you’re not willing to present it now? Pruitt: If there’s a matter— Whitehouse: Why does it matter in the future and not now? Pruitt: If there’s a matter or cast that comes before the EPA’s authority, that would be something. There’s ongoing—as you know, Senator, Ms. Fugh indicated this in her letter—there’s ongoing obligations that I will have, if confirmed as administrator, to bring those kinds of matters to attention of EPA ethics. Whitehouse: Well, for what it’s worth, I think that the Senate has a role in policing this as well, that the whole purpose of advice and consent and the reason there are these government ethics filings is so we can look at this exact question, and the fact that they haven’t been updated to take into account dark money and all these big political organizations that have been created with dark money doesn’t take away our Senate obligation to find out what conflicts of interest you will bring to the position of administrator. And it gives me very little comfort that you’re not willing to answer those questions here. My time has expired. I’ll continue in other rounds.
- 1:07:50 Senator Ed Markey: Do you support the current California waiver for greenhouse gas standards? Scott Pruitt: Senator, that’s what would be evaluated, and I think it’s very difficult, and we shouldn’t prejudge the outcome in that regard if confirmed as administrator. Markey: So you’re questioning the current waiver. You don’t think they’re entitled to the current waiver. Pruitt: Well, the waiver is something that’s granted on an annual basis, and the administrator would be responsible for making that decision. Markey: Yeah. And so you say you’re going to review it. Pruitt: Yes, Senator. Markey: Yeah. And when you say review, I hear undo the rights of the states, and I think to a certain extent that it’s troublesome because, obviously, what we’ve heard all day is how much you support states’ rights when it comes to these issues, but now when it comes to the right of California or Massachusetts and other states to be able to reduce carbon pollution, you’re saying you’re going to review that. So my problem really goes to this double standard that is created that when you sue from the Oklahoma perspective, from the oil and gas industry perspective, and you represent Oklahoma, you say they have a right to do what they want to do in the state of Oklahoma. But when it comes to Massachusetts or it comes to California, and it comes to the question of those states wanting to increase their protection for the environment, protect their victimization from carbon pollution, you say there you’re going to review.
- 1:51:58 Senator Jim Inhofe: The cost of regulations: as you know, the Supreme Court overturned the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics—that’s MATS—rule in 2015 because the EPA failed to—ignored the fact that the cost was $9.6 billion annually of the rule. Now, in fact, the EPA’s regularly issued rules over the past eight years that are very costly for our industries and our job creators. According to the CRS—now, CRS, when they make an evaluation, are much more conservative, the figure is always a very conservative figure, but they said the Clean Power Plan would be at least $5 billion to $8 billion a year. The figures I’ve heard on that are far greater because it wouldn’t be that much different than the old systems that they tried to do through legislation: the methane standards on oil and gas facilities, $315 million a year; the new ozone standards, $1.4 billion; the 2015 coal ash standards, $587 million a year; and the 2011 sulfur dioxide standards, $1.5 billion a year. Now, when you hear this, all this money is being spent on compliance costs by our job creators, people out there that are working for a living, and they’re hiring people. What are you thoughts, and what do you believe should be the role of the costs of EPA’s decision making? Pruitt: I think it’s very important in the rule-making process, Senator, and the Supreme Court and courts have recognized that very important factor.
- 1:54:46 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: We have been talking about fundraising done by you for the Rule of Law Defense Fund during the time when you were both a board member and for a full year the chairman of the Rule of Law Defense Fund and the fact that we have exactly zero information in this committee about that fundraising. We also have zero—and let me ask unanimous consent for the page from— Chairman Barrasso: Without objection. Whitehouse: —the filing that discloses that he was in fact a member of the board of directors and chairman of the Rule of Law Defense Fund. We also have a meeting agenda from the Republican Attorney Generals Association during a time that you were executive committee member of the Republican Attorney Generals Association meeting at The Greenbrier, which I’ll stipulate for my friend from West Virginia is a lovely place to go, and the agenda, which I’d like to take this page of and put into the record, mentions a private meeting with Murray Energy. It mentions a private meeting with Southern Company. It mentions a private meeting with the American Fuel Petrochemical Manufacturers. If you’ll show the graphic, these are all the same groups that I’d been asking about in terms of your fundraising for the Rule of Law Defense Fund, and there’s Murray Energy, and there’s Southern Company, and I’m sure the American Fuel Petrochemical Manufacturers represent a lot of the others. As I understand it, we know nothing—no minutes, no statements, no reports—about what took place in those meetings that are described as private meetings on a sheet that is stamped “confidential.” Correct? We know nothing about the content of those meetings. Scott Pruitt: Senator, I didn’t generate the document. I know nothing about how that document got generated or what— Whitehouse: Are you denying that those private meetings took place? Pruitt: No, Senator. I just didn’t generate the document and don’t know about the content other than what you’ve represented. Whitehouse: Okay. And we don’t know. And because you were on the executive committee of RAGA, that’s information that we could get, right? I mean, it’s available, if there were minutes or reports out of those meetings, notes taken; but we don’t have them, correct? Pruitt: Senator, that would be a request made to the Republican Attorney Generals Association. And I might add, the Republican Attorney Generals Association, there’s a Democrat Attorney Generals Association as well.
- 1:59:43 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: Given how many of these groups have important financial interests before the EPA, do you not think that 3,000 emails back and forth between you and your office and them are relevant to potential conflict of interest as an administrator and should be before us as we consider this? Scott Pruitt: Again, I think the EPA ethics council has put out a very clear process with respect to covered entities, as we described earlier, and on particular matters and specific cases, I will follow advice of that EPA career person, ethics, to make sure that there are recusing [unclear]— Whitehouse: You keep saying that, but the problem is— Chairman Barrasso: The senator’s time has expired. Whitehouse: Will you finish my sentence? Barrasso: Please do. Whitehouse: The problem with that is that if you haven’t disclosed any of this information, then the EPA ethics council would have no idea to even look. They would have no idea what the risks are. You can’t say, nobody can look at whether I did this, but by the way, they’re going to look at it. It just doesn’t add up.
- 2:12:30 Senator Jeff Merkley: Ten years ago we were talking about models that led to the conversation Senator Inhofe had about Climategate, about wrestling with assumptions and models. We don’t need models now; we have facts on the ground: the moose are dying because the ticks aren’t being killed by the winter being cold enough, the fish are migrating on the Atlantic coast, and Maine’s losing its lobsters to Canada. These facts on the ground are extraordinarily real, they have a huge economic impact, and shouldn’t we take a very serious approach to the urgency of this problem as we see it descending upon us? Scott Pruitt: Senator, I think the EPA—and if confirmed [missing audio] and obligation to deal with the issue. The Massachusetts v. EPA case says that CO2 is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and as such, that’s what generated the 2009 endangerment finding. So I think there is a legal obligation presently for the EPA administrator to respond to the CO2 issue through proper regulations.
Design by Only Child Imaginations