Reuters is reporting that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will be Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Unsurprisingly, Pruitt is one of the conservative attorneys general who has sued to block President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of his greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
But considering Trump said he wants to “drain the swamp,” you might be surprised he picked someone who literally built the swamp. Pruitt is a pioneer in turning government over to corporate special interests.
Two years ago, the New York Times uncovered that Pruitt regularly had the lobbyist for Devon Energy, a major Oklahoma oil and gas company, write his official letters to the Obama administration:
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 … 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.
…Energy industry lobbyists drafted letters for him to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama … Industries that he regulates have also joined him as plaintiffs in court challenges, a departure from the usual role of the state attorney general, who traditionally sues companies to force compliance with state law…
… One of his closest partners has been Harold G. Hamm, the billionaire chief executive of Continental Resources, which is among the biggest oil and gas drilling companies in both Oklahoma and North Dakota.
This year, Mr. Pruitt joined with a group aligned with Mr. Hamm to sue the Interior Department over its plan to consider adding animals such as the lesser prairie chicken to the endangered species list, a move that Mr. Hamm has said could knock out “some of the most promising land for oil and gas leases in the country.” The suit was filed after Mr. Hamm announced that he would serve as the chairman of Mr. Pruitt’s re-election campaign.
Pruitt is not your usual lackey. He is a visionary, transforming the role of attorney general into a weapon for corporations to undermine the public interest.
Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.
That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration…
…Energy industry lobbyists have also distributed draft legislation to attorneys general and asked them to help push it through state legislatures to give the attorneys general clearer authority to challenge the Obama regulatory agenda, the documents show.
“It is quite new,” said Paul Nolette, a political-science professor at Marquette University and the author of the forthcoming book “Federalism on Trial: State Attorneys General and National Policy Making in Contemporary America.” “The scope, size and tenor of these collaborations is, without question, unprecedented.”
Some of Trump’s picks have been jokes. Ben Carson is completely unqualified to run HUD. Steve Mnuchin is likely in over his head at Treasury. Betsy DeVos’ record as a education reformer is disastrous.
But Pruitt is someone who knows what he is doing. His career is all about letting fossil fuel companies write the rules without regard for the public interest. The EPA is about to be weaponized against the environment. Get your battle gear on.