Scott Pruitt does not mention climate change in first speech as EPA director

The former Oklahoma attorney general’s only reference to the 'toxic environment' was related to politics

Rachael Revesz
New York
Tuesday 21 February 2017 21:49 GMT
Mr Pruitt used to file lawsuits against the EPA - now he is leading it
Mr Pruitt used to file lawsuits against the EPA - now he is leading it

Some commentators expressed hope that Donald Trump would become more "presidential" when he entered office.

They might have also hoped former Oklahoma attorney general and climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt would adopt green gloves when he became the Environmental Protection Agency director.

During his first speech at the helm of the EPA, Mr Pruitt did not mention climate change or any recent negative impact on the environment.

Instead, he talked about the founding fathers who discussed moving the capital city away from New York to the shores of the Potomac despite differing views, and applied this metaphor to how he would address "our environment and natural resources".

His only reference of the "toxic environment" was related to politics, and how it damaged compromise.

The mission of the EPA is written in statute and it is not to compromise with the oil and gas industry - industries which Mr Pruitt often represented in lawsuits as attorney general and upon which the economy of his home state was heavily reliant.

The EPA's mission is to "protect human health and the environment - air, water and land".

He declared that the EPA can be "pro-energy, pro-jobs and pro-environment".

"We don’t have to choose between the two," he said, adding that the EPA can "respect" the jobs created by the energy industry.

Trying to reassure his new colleagues, he promised he would be a "good listener" and "dig down deep" to get to know staff and their issues.

During his senate confirmation hearing, Democrats expressed concern that Mr Pruitt would seek to dismantle the EPA whilst at the helm of the agency.

The anti-abortion lawyer who advocates the distribution of bibles in schools and who has fought against transgender rights was also questioned on his personal views about climate change.

He said the debate on the subject "was far from settled" and joined a coalition of state attorney generals in suing the agency’s Clean Power Plan, a key Obama-era policy that tried to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental campaign groups called him a "fossil fuel industry puppet" and "an enthusiastic shill for the fracking industry".

Within hours of Donald Trump being elected, the former White House website's information on climate change was taken down, and the National Park Service, which often tweets about climate change, was subject to a social media blackout.

Mr Trump has already lifted restrictions on coal mining and has ordered construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which was forecast to pollute the water supply of millions of people in North Dakota.

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