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Environmental Groups Urge Sanders, Leahy To Oppose Trump's Science-Denying EPA Pick

Andrew Harnik
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the EPA, in New York on Dec. 7.

A coalition of 11 environmental groups has signed on to letters urging Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Patrick Leahy to vote against the confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a 2016 piece in National Review, Pruitt dismissed the established scientific findings that climate change is real and caused by human activity.

After President-elect Donald Trump announced Pruitt as his pick to run the EPA, Sanders said the choice was “sad and dangerous.”

Sanders is also a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which will hold a hearing on Pruitt’s confirmation Wednesday morning.

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) was one of the 11 organizations campaigning against Pruitt’s confirmation. CLF Senior Attorney Chris Kilian says Pruitt’s record is fundamentally at odds with the mission of the EPA.

“We’re very concerned that an attorney general that has been a lead in suing the Environmental Protection Agency to limit the scope of the agency’s authority, undermine critical Clean Air Act protections both on toxic pollutants and on climate change, and seeking to significantly curtail the scope and function of the federal Clean Water Act shouldn’t be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” Kilian said.

Kilian added: “There is just a very clear and impossible-to-reconcile conflict in his background, his advocacy history and the job that he’s proposed to take on.”

Joining CLF in submitting a letter to Sanders and Leahy were the Lake Champlain Committee, the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Conservation Voters, Lake Champlain International, the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, Renewable Energy Vermont, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, and 350Vermont.

Leahy spokesman David Carle said in an email that Leahy is busy this week with the confirmation proceedings for Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general. Leahy’s senior role on the Senate Judiciary Committee makes him a key player in those proceedings.

Carle said Leahy will follow Pruitt’s confirmation hearing closely and that “he has concerns about this nomination, as well as many other nominations,” and that those concerns included the issues cited in the letter from environmental groups.

In order to hold the top EPA job, Pruitt must be confirmed by a vote of the full U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives does not vote on the confirmation of cabinet appointees.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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