Trump Appoints EPA Chief Experienced in Battling the Agency Over Emissions Rules

President-elect Donald Trump just appointed an EPA chief who has experience taking on legal battles with the agency over Obama’s climate change policies.

Announced yesterday, Trump’s appointee as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. While environmental groups and members of Congress vehemently oppose the move, it was in line with Trump’s campaign pledges and opposition to the EPA.

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a statement released by his transition team. “As my EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt … will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”

The EPA has been pivotal in the Obama administration’s mission to fight climate change through supporting clean transportation and energy. Emissions reductions has been central to the 54.5 mpg by 2025 rule and other policies such as clean energy mandates for electric utilities and oil producers.

Pruitt, subject to Senate confirmation, has fought the EPA over several of its policies by battling several of the agency’s rules in court. Issues fought over include regulation slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a water pollution measure, and the EPA’s premise that carbon dioxide is a pollutant endangering public health and welfare. Considered a strong advocate for the oil industry, Pruitt has also been part of opposing the White House over “Obamacare” health care regulations.

Pruitt hasn’t taken on greenhouse gas emissions produced by vehicles and the 54.5 mpg rule, but his legal arguments have been in line with opposing the EPA’s decisions.

The potential new EPA chief has challenged the legality of the agency finding that underpins its power to enforce regulations to limit carbon dioxide emissions, including those for autos, a spokesman for Environmental Defense Fund spokesman said.

SEE ALSO:  Automakers Ask Trump Transition Team to Consider Reforming Fuel Economy and Emissions Rules

The EPA is expected to face opposition from the new administration over its decision last week to close the mid-term evaluation and approve the 2025 fuel economy and emissions mandate in its current state. That decision has a 30-day public comment period ending later this month – well before the new president takes office. Several automaker executives expressed frustration with that move.

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers CEO Mitch Bainwol told Automotive News that the group hopes to work with Pruitt to help ensure that the mid-term evaluation “is completed thoroughly and with close attention to achieving a balanced outcome so that we can continue to achieve gains in fuel efficiency and carbon reduction while also protecting customer affordability and auto-dependent jobs.”

Several U.S. senators said they would oppose his nomination U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., called Pruitt “unsuitable to lead the EPA” because of his history “carrying water for Big Oil.”

“The EPA is our cop on the beat, protecting the American people and our environment from harmful pollution, hazardous waste and the impacts of climate change,” Markey said in an e-mailed statement. “He has dedicated years of his career to rolling back the bedrock laws and rules that protect our water and our air.”

It’s expected to be a tough battle. Republicans now hold a slim majority in the senate, and a few leading Democrats have voiced their concerns. Environmental groups have been organizing opposition, urging their supporters to lobby the Senate to reject Pruitt.

“We are totally mobilizing on this one,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii told reporters in Washington, adding that he expects “it will be extremely difficult” for Pruitt to be confirmed.

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