Former attorney general and fossil fuel pal Scott Pruitt was confirmed to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, with a vote of 52-46. Two Democrats, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, both from oil producing states, crossed party lines in support of Pruitt.
After a month of complying with a White House "gag order", the agency's first public communication in almost a month was a congratulatory message to Pruitt.
Many EPA employees are decidedly not looking forward to welcoming him to the agency. Groups of EPA staff members, both current and retired, have vocally opposed Pruitt's confirmation on the basis that he is unfit to serve America's environmental and public health interests.
For most people working in the science community, there's no overstating the egregious conflicts of interest his nomination flags. Pruitt sued the EPA 13 times as Oklahoma's attorney general. He was called "a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama's climate change policies," and let fossil fuel companies draft letters he had sent to former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.
"Scott Pruitt is anti-environment, anti-science and anti-regulation. His ascension to lead the Environmental Protection Agency flies clearly in the face of our government's responsibility to protect our air, water and wildlife. It is a strange time indeed when someone with such disdain for the mission of the EPA now heads this critically important agency," Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement.
The agency has been among President Trump's biggest targets for upheaval. Both Trump and Pruitt oppose the EPA's position on climate change science (basically, that climate change exists and is manmade), and seek to limit its powers.
Trump is expected to sign multiple Executive Orders this week at Pruitt's signing-in ceremony. It's unclear what those rules will be, but federal policies like the Clean Water Act and Clean Power Plan, which would limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, are certainly on the chopping block.
We can only wait and see how the EPA will respond to that.