An ardent foe of the EPA will now be leading it. The Senate voted 52–46 to confirm Scott Pruitt, who, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, sued the agency more than a dozen times to attack critical clean air and water safeguards. Among the many EPA rules he opposes, one is the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, a public health measure estimated to prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks each year.
Pruitt’s conflicts of interest also sparked major controversy—not only has he taken more than $300,000 in political donations from the fossil fuel industry, but he steadfastly refused to release more than 3,000 e-mails relating to his correspondence with energy companies and their lobbyists. The day before his confirmation, an Oklahoma county district judge ordered the state attorney general’s office to turn over those e-mails, pursuant to an open records request. Senators demanded to delay Pruitt’s confirmation until those e-mails could be fully vetted, but Senate leaders denied the request. More senators voted against Pruitt than any previous EPA nominee since the agency was established in 1970. NRDC opposed him as the worst-ever EPA nominee—a sentiment shared by hundreds of current and former agency employees—and is bracing for an all-out polluter-driven assault on America’s health and environmental protections.