Trump nominates climate sceptic Pruitt to lead EPA

US President-elect Donald Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as its administrator.

Pruitt has served as attorney general since 2010, prior to which he had an eight-year tenure in the Oklahoma state senate.

He said that he intends to protect the environment, but at the same time safeguard businesses from overregulation.

"The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses," he said on Thursday as his nomination was made official.

However, Pruitt has been known, according to his website, as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda”, and he has earlier sued the agency over its regulations of power plants and expressed doubts about the validity of climate change.

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Pruitt wrote in the National Review earlier this year.

“That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”

 ‘Voice of reason’ or ‘hostile’

Pruitt’s nomination has drawn mixed reactions from across the board, being welcomed by fossil fuel interest groups and vilified by environmentalists, while bioenergy groups have expressed cautious optimism.

“Attorney general Scott Pruitt has long been a defender of states’ rights and a vocal opponent of the current administration’s overreaching EPA,” said Laura Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which works on behalf of the coal industry.

“Mr. Pruitt will be a significant voice of reason when it comes to energy and environmental regulations,” she added.

Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy group, was much less enthusiastic.

“During the campaign, Mr. Trump regularly threatened to dismantle the EPA and roll back many of the gains made to reduce Americans’ exposures to industrial pollution, and with Pruitt, the president-elect would make good on those threats,” Cook told the New York Times.

“It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.”

Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, said Pruitt has a history of supporting green energy.

“During Scott Pruitt's time in the Oklahoma legislature, he supported the development of alternative energy sources, including biomass,” said Cleaves. “We look forward to working with Mr. Pruitt on sensible climate regulations that promote the growth of abundant domestic energy sources like biomass power.”

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor echoed Cleaves’ sentiments in welcoming future cooperation with Pruitt.

“We congratulate Mr. Pruitt on his nomination and look forward to working with him to carry out President-elect Trump’s strong commitments to protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard and ending restrictions to getting more ethanol into our fuel supply.

“America’s ethanol industry worked hard to help bring President-elect Trump to the White House and continues to support his dedication to ensuring home-grown domestic energy security,” Skor said.

This article was written by Ilari Kauppila, deputy editor at Biofuels International