Thursday, January 26, 2017

EPA Pick Pruitt Abandoned Environmental Protections in Oklahoma, Lawyers Say

Legal experts say Scott Pruitt did not pursue enforcement of environmental laws in favor of industries that were also among his biggest political donors.

At his Senate confirmation hearing for EPA chief, Scott Pruitt argued he had pursued cases to protect Oklahoma's environment as state attorney general. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Environmental lawyers from Oklahoma joined the chorus of those pressuring U.S. senators to reject President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.  They argue Pruitt abandoned environmental cases and regulation in his state, in favor of polluting oil, gas and agricultural industry interests.

The lawyers met with members from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works this week, rebutting Pruitt's claims during his confirmation hearing that he has taken steps to protect the environment.

Their criticisms go back to the beginning of Pruitt's tenure.  Shortly after taking office in 2011, Pruitt dismantled the office's Environmental Protection Unit, established by his Democratic predecessor in 1996 to pursue violators of the state's environmental laws.  The unit pursued dozens of cases against polluters, especially in the farming industry.  In 1997, it helped establish the state's Environmental Crimes Task Force, which launched 142 investigations and 56 criminal prosecutions, according to the unit's former chief, Kelly Hunter Foster.

In his confirmation hearing last week, Pruitt referred to a list of environmental cases his office has pursued.  That list cites 15 cases, all but three inherited from his predecessor.

Read more at EPA Pick Pruitt Abandoned Environmental Protections in Oklahoma, Lawyers Say

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