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Pruitt Questioned about Climate, Dark Money During Confirmation Hearing


President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt faced questions from Senators in his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Climate change, coal and gas dominated the questioning as the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works interviewed Pruitt. The attorney general from Oklahoma has spent a lot of time fighting against many federal environmental regulations — including the current EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is the first federal policy of its kind designed to slow greenhouse gas emissions.

While Pruitt said he does not believe climate change is a hoax, when asked by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont if he disagreed with the majority of scientists who say the earth’s climate is changing as a result of human activities, Pruitt responded that his personal opinion is “immaterial.”

Pruitt also largely skirted questions about possible conflicts of interest. Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out thousands of email correspondences, industry-drafted letters sent from his office, as well as several private meetings Pruitt has had with the fossil fuel industry — including meetings in West Virginia with coal company Murray Energy.

“I’m asking you if you think it might place you in a conflict of interest,” Whitehouse pressed, “because I think we both understand that the ethics rules the EPA is enforcing pre-date Citizens United, pre-date dark money. And they’ve said that they aren’t even looking at that because they don’t have the authority.”

Many Republican senators, including West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, were enthusiastic about Pruitt’s nomination expressing  confidence that he will “restore the rule of law at the EPA.”

“The EPA’s regulatory overreach has created significant devastation in West Virginia, but for the past eight years the agency has given no indication that it cares about the economic impact of its policies even though the law requires consideration of economic factors. I was glad to receive a commitment from Attorney General Pruitt that under his leadership the EPA will meet this requirement and that if confirmed as EPA administrator, Attorney General Pruitt will visit West Virginia and hear the real-world concerns of people impacted by the agency’s rulemaking,” Capito said.