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Pruitt: Endangerment finding the law of the land and must be respected

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said during his Jan. 18 confirmation hearing that the U.S. EPA's finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases constitute a threat to human health and welfare and therefore need to be regulated is the law of the land and "must be respected."

Some critics of Pruitt's nomination to become the next administrator of the EPA have worried that his participation in litigation against the endangerment finding may suggest Pruitt could roll back that ruling if he becomes the administrator of the agency. But Pruitt told Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., that the endangerment finding "is there and needs to be enforced."

The issue arose during the afternoon round of questioning at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill. The senators returned to issues that were brought up in the morning session, such as Pruitt's stance on climate change and his record of protecting the health of Oklahomans. The discussion also saw the senators introduce some new concerns and issues before ending the session after 6.5 hours.

SNL Image

Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee John Barrasso of Wyoming, right, speaks with Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., during the Jan. 18 confirmation hearing for Scott Pruitt.

Source: Associated Press

SNL Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., displays a poster at the Jan. 18 confirmation hearing for prospective EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt as he asked the nominee about possible conflicts of interest.

Source: Associated Press

Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., asked Pruitt about his commitment to transparency at the agency, alluding to a 2009 incident in which former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was found to have used the alias "Richard Windsor" in an official capacity. Pruitt said transparency is "very important" to him and pledged not to take any actions as administrator that would restrict transparency.

Ranking Member Thomas Carper, D-Del., asked Pruitt about his history of litigating the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and whether the nominee believes that mercury should be regulated.

"There's not a statement or belief that I had that mercury is something that should not be regulated," Pruitt said. "I believe that mercury should be dealt with and dealt with in a meaningful way in a manner that this Congress has outlined."

Pruitt also noted Oklahoma's heavy emphasis on renewable energy, specifically wind generation.

Senators from both sides of the aisle asked Pruitt for his stance on the "sue-and-settle" practice of settling litigation behind closed doors, including from Markey, who renewed calls for Pruitt to recuse himself from matters that he litigated as attorney general.

Markey, who supports the EPA's Clean Power Plan, pushed the nominee to agree not to seek an immediate a settlement with his fellow attorneys general who are litigating the rule if he becomes EPA administrator. Pruitt has been one of the leaders in that litigation and is known for being an opponent of the rule.

Pruitt said he did not believe in the sue-and-settle practice and would take advice from the agency's ethics and career staffers on decisions of whether to recuse himself or not from the matter.

"There is no bigger case than the Clean Power Plan," Markey said. "It goes to the promise that the United States is making to the world."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., continued a line of questioning from the morning asking Pruitt to disclose his connections to the fossil fuel industry. He displayed a large poster of Pruitt's possible conflicts of interest, including connections with Southern Co., Devon Energy Corp., Murray Energy Corp. and others.