OKLAHOMA CITY – President-elect Donald Trump’s designation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provoked dismay among national environmental groups, but strong support from the state’s Republican leadership.
While positive affirmations about his performance have been common in the week since his designation, Pruitt has his share of detractors in Oklahoma. While one or two other Trump nominees for top federal jobs might attract even more controversy, Pruitt’s confirmation will be one of the significant jousts to watch in the early days of the Trump presidency.
State Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, is the new majority floor leader in the upper chamber. In a statement sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations soon after the selection was announced last week, Treat said:
“Because of the leadership of Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma has been the point of the spear in the fight against the unlawful and unconstitutional overreach of the EPA the past eight years. I’ve worked alongside Scott in recent years specifically to push back on the Clean Power Plan, and the EPA’s attempt to circumvent Congress and the authority of the states to regulate and conserve their natural resources. No one is more qualified or better suited than Scott Pruitt to reign in the EPA, and restore balance to the agency’s relationships with Congress, the states, and private industry. It certainly is great news for Oklahoma that one of our own has been appointed to a leadership position in the Trump administration, but it’s even better news for our nation and the rule of law that Scott Pruitt will lead the EPA.”
Incoming Speaker of the House Charles A. McCall, R-Atoka, circulated a pres release saying, “Today’s announcement is incredible news not only for Oklahoma, but also for everyone across this nation that believes that states are sovereign and federal power is limited.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been a champion for freedom and for Oklahoma for the last six years. As a citizen of one of the nation’s leading energy producing states, I am excited for Oklahoma and for Scott, and I cannot think of a better choice for our nation at this critical agency.”
U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, shared the enthusiasm in his own release:
“Pruitt has served Oklahoma as a tireless defender of justice and law, and I am confident that he will serve America well. I look forward to working with him to restore a balanced approach to regulations and governance that fosters economic growth, advances energy independence and ensures stewardship for the environment. Scott Pruitt knows the difference between a state responsibility and a federal responsibility. The American people deserve an EPA that rejects extreme activism and instead returns to its proper interpretation of environmental law.”
Lankford’s colleague, the state’s senior U.S. Senator, also responded quickly: “Scott Pruitt has been a leader and a partner on environmental issues for many years,” said James Inhofe, R-Tulsa.
“Pruitt has fought back against unconstitutional and overzealous environmental regulations like Waters of the U.S. and the Clean Power Plan; he has proven that being a good steward of the environment does not mean burdening tax payers and businesses with red tape. In his appearances before the Environment and Public Works committee, Pruitt has demonstrated that he is an expert on environmental laws and a champion of states’ roles in implementing those laws. Scott is thoughtful, experienced and a natural pick for this role. I am pleased with President-elect Trump’s selection and I look forward to working with my fellow Oklahoman in his new capacity.”
Another strong statement of support came from Jonathan Small, who is president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), the state’s best-known free market “think tank.” Small said:
“General Pruitt is exactly the kind of leader we need to take on Washington, D.C.. He has a track record of challenging the D.C.-knows-best mentality when it comes to protecting our environment and natural resources. The Constitution purposefully limits federal power and leaves control over local lands and businesses in the hands of state leaders. Gen. Pruitt has shown his dedication to restoring this balance between state and federal power.”
Former state Attorney General Mike Turpen also praised the Pruitt selection, saying in a widely circulated commentary (reprinted in The Tulsa World), “Pruitt’s background in constitutional law combined with a nuanced understanding of how environmental regulations affect the economy mean that he will be a thoughtful leader of the EPA and one capable of striking the balance between protecting the environment and our economy.”
NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report. A separate story covers leading in-state voices opposed to Pruitt’s selection.