TRANSITION: Pruitt Has Mixed Court Record in EPA Showdowns
December 8, 2016
By Jeremy P. Jacobs and Amanda Reilly
As Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead U.S. EPA, built a record of filing politically charged lawsuits against the agency.
Almost all of those lawsuits failed.
Since Pruitt became attorney general in 2011, the Republican has used the office to launch an offensive against EPA as well as other major Obama administration policies, including the Affordable Care Act.
But a review of those lawsuits by E&E News shows Pruitt lost the majority of those cases, some of which were quickly tossed by federal judges.
Pruitt’s most significant win was the Supreme Court’s decision to put President Obama’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions program on hold. But legal experts say his primary argument — that EPA was overstepping constitutional limits and trampling states’ rights — is unlikely to prevail.
Yet Pruitt has drawn a significant following on the right for his tenacity in challenging the Obama administration. And Pruitt’s legal strategy appears in line with Trump’s strong statements on the campaign trail about rolling back Obama administration regulations that he views as threatening the economy.
The president-elect commented along similar lines in announcing Pruitt’s nomination today.
“For too long, [EPA] 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. “As my EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, the highly respected Attorney General from the state of Oklahoma, will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”
Pruitt’s critics, however, say the Republican is more interested in scoring political points than advancing sound legal theories.
“He clearly files politically motivated lawsuits aimed at protecting polluters,” said Bill Snape, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “And he’s done some odd things legally.”
Howard Learner of the Environmental Law & Policy Center was more direct in assessing Pruitt’s record.
“Look, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mr. Pruitt consistently challenged EPA clean air and clean water standards,” Learner said. “And mostly, he did not achieve success.”