WASHINGTON ― Two of the Senate’s fiercest environmental advocates are advising their fellow Democrats to use Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, as a rallying point for the party.
Democrats are aware that they will have to choose their battles once the president-elect takes office if they want a viable chance at reclaiming the Senate or the White House in 2020.
But they argue that Pruitt, the fossil fuel-friendly Oklahoma attorney general, is just the type of nominee Senate Democrats can take a strong stand against.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday he is not only opposed to Pruitt because he is a climate change denier. He says Pruitt’s impending nomination is “a matter of corruption” because he has spent “his entire life in service” dedicated to the oil and gas industry, working against everything the EPA stands to protect.
“We need rally points in our cause and this appointment ought to be a rally point,” Whitehouse said on a call with reporters hosted by the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters. “First for our [green] groups and for young people, who feel that climate change is a vitally important issue. And it should be a rally point for some for our corporations who talk a very good game on climate ― but none of whom take serious action [with] Congress.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) called Trump’s decision to pick Pruitt “a full-fledged environmental emergency.”
“This is going to be litmus test for every member of the Senate who claims not to be a denier,” he said, adding that a number of Republicans have said they agree with Democrats that the question of whether climate change is real has been settled by scientists.
“It’s one thing to occasionally flirt with the truth,” Schatz argued, but Republicans who support tackling greenhouse gas emissions must now decide if they “are going to stand with science, stand with clean air and clean water, or stand with Mr. Pruitt, who has made a profession out of undermining the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.”
Under Pruitt, Oklahoma is part of a coalition of states currently suing the EPA over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which requires the nation’s coal-fired power plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. According to a 2014 New York Times report, Pruitt and Devon Energy ― one of Oklahoma’s largest oil and gas companies ― engaged in an “unprecedented, secretive alliance.”
Pruitt would be the “worst-ever administrator” of the EPA if he’s confirmed by the Senate, said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski.
During the call, a Fox News reporter asked why Karpinski, Whitehouse and Schatz insisted on calling Pruitt a climate change “denier” when there are a number of scientists who say the science behind climate change isn’t settled.
Karpinski referenced the oft-cited fact that 97 percent of the scientific community agrees that the earth is warming due to human activity. The Fox News reporter then asked Karpinski for the source of the figure ― something a quick Google search or visit to NASA’s webpage will produce.
Karpinski said he would be happy to talk to the reporter once Fox stopped pushing fake news and accepted scientific fact.
“Putting aside that crap ... ” the reporter began to say.
But Karpinksi interrupted. “Excuse me, how did you describe science?”