VIDEO: Udall Speaks on Senate Floor Against Pruitt Nomination for EPA
Udall: Pruitt has 'aligned solely with industry, and against public health and the environment' 'I am concerned that Mr. Pruitt has not shown and does not have the proper respect for Tribal sovereignty'
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In opposing Pruitt's nomination, Udall cited Pruitt's long record of fighting for polluters in court, denying climate change, disrespecting Tribal sovereignty, and working to undermine the fundamental goals of the EPA to protect clean air and clean water. Below are Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. President, I rise to oppose the nomination of Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I believe the president should be able to assemble his or her own team. I understand that elections have consequences, and that a president should be able to put forth his or her policy agenda.
"I have voted on this floor many times in support of nominees with whom I have policy differences, but they have been qualified, experienced in their field, who believe in the fundamental mission of the agency they are tasked to lead.
"That is not the case with Attorney General Pruitt. Mr. Pruitt has extreme environmental policy views. And he has zero experience running an environmental protection agency. In fact, he does not believe in the fundamental mission of EPA.
"Attorney General Pruitt made his name opposing EPA rules that protect human health and the environment, fighting against clean air and clean water, disregarding the science behind the EPA's protections for human health and the environment, on behalf of for-profit special interests, not the public interest.
"He has brought 19 suits against the EPA. Eight are currently pending in the courts. And, if confirmed, he won't recuse himself from all pending cases. As a lawyer - and especially as your state's top lawyer - you shouldn't change sides in litigation. It's just not right.
"Let's look at just a few examples from his litigation record, starting with his opposition to clean air.
"Mr. Pruitt is leading litigation against the EPA's ozone or smog rule. In 2015, the EPA revised its ambient air standard for ground-level ozone. The EPA was long overdue in revising its ozone standards to protect public health. It even had to be sued by states and environmental organizations to make sure the standards adequately protected human health.
"High concentrations of ozone are bad for public health. Children, older adults, and people with lung diseases such as asthma are especially vulnerable.
"The EPA set a standard of 70 parts per billion. This standard is based on the best science, which included thousands of studies analyzing the effect of ozone on public health.
"In addition, the EPA built in flexibility for states that would have trouble meeting the standard.
"But, the Oklahoma attorney general currently leads a four-state charge to do away with the rule.
"Mr. Pruitt thinks it is okay for power plants to emit unhealthy levels of mercury and other toxins into the air.
"In 2011, the EPA passed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The rule limits emissions from power plants of mercury, arsenic, and metals.
"Like the ozone standard, this rule was long overdue. And the EPA was forced by the courts to develop the standards. The science is well established that these toxins are a serious public health threat. Fortunately, there are proven and available technologies to limit the emissions.
"Scott Pruitt fought the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. He is still litigating in court against the standards, even though the vast majority of power plants in the nation are currently in compliance with the standards.
"Mr. Pruitt testified in his hearing he saw a role for the EPA to address pollution that crosses state boundaries. But his litigation history does not support that testimony.
"As Oklahoma attorney general, he fought the EPA's Cross State Air Pollution Rule, a rule designed to reduce power plant emissions that cross state lines and cause smog and soot pollution and health problems in downwind states. Specifically, the Cross State Air Pollution Rule reduces sulfur dioxide - or ‘SO2' - and oxides of nitrogen - or ‘NOX' emissions. NOX emissions contribute to fine particle or soot pollution, and to ground-level ozone formation, smog.
"Even though this pollution affects the air and health of downwind states, Mr. Pruitt sided with the power plants.
"Air pollution is not the only pollution that crosses state lines. River and stream pollution does not stop at state boundaries either.
"The EPA and the U.S. Army passed the Clean Water Rule in 2015. The rule clarified a dizzying set of Supreme Court cases defining protected waters. The EPA and the Army used the best science, reviewing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies, to define protected waters.
"New Mexico is an arid state. We have very little surface water. We need to protect all of our surface water for domestic, agricultural, industrial, and recreational uses. And, by the way, the EPA and the Army's definition of ‘surface waters' is no broader than my own state's definition of ‘surface waters.' New Mexico's definition is appropriate and reasonable - to protect our precious surface water.
"The attorney general of Oklahoma is fighting the Clean Water Rule, too, even though it protects against cross-state pollution.
"One more example, Mr. President: the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is our country's best effort to address climate change.
"We know that climate change is happening. We know that climate change is primarily caused by humans. We know that power plants are a major contributor. We know that we need to take action, and that we need to take action fast to protect our planet.
"The Clean Power Plan significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions from existing, modified, and future power plants. The Clean Power Plan was developed based on the best science. It was developed based on a tremendous amount of input from states, industry, environmentalists, and others. It provides states with a lot of flexibility how to comply.
"Mr. Pruitt, true to form, is litigating against the Clean Power Plan.
"Mr. Pruitt apparently does not understand the science of climate change. In the National Review in 2016 he wrote, ‘Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.' During his confirmation hearing, he similarly stated, ‘Science tells us that the climate is changing and human activity in some manner impacts that change. The human ability to measure with precision the extent of that impact is subject to continuing debate and dialogue, as well they should be.'
"That is not what science tells us. That is maybe what his fossil fuel special interests tell him. But that is not what science tells us. His views are not consistent with the scientific consensus on climate change.
"The 2013 report from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change found it ‘extremely likely' that more than half of the global warming that occurred between 1951 and 2010 was a consequence of human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
"So many of the decisions made and the regulations passed by the EPA rely heavily upon good science. It is absolutely critical that the EPA administrator understand and use the best science.
"I am not convinced that Mr. Pruitt understands and will use the best science if he is confirmed to lead the EPA.
"When developing regulations, the EPA must first follow the law's requirements to protect human health and environment. Then, within the law's requirements, the EPA should take account of input and information from all sources - from industry, environmentalists, states and public agencies.
"I am not convinced that Mr. Pruitt will follow the law's requirements to protect public health environment. And I am not convinced that he will take account the input of all stakeholders.
"Throughout his career as attorney general, Mr. Pruitt has aligned solely with industry, and against public health and the environment. He has no record of aligning with the public, or of securing our environment for the future.
"As attorney general, he engaged in a scorched earth policy against environmental regulations. He dismantled his environmental protection unit. He became very close, politically, to the energy industry. He adopted letters written by energy lobbyists almost verbatim, and then submitted them on behalf of the state of Oklahoma in federal legal proceedings. As chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association, he became even more closely aligned to fossil-fuel related companies.
"Mr. Pruitt's record is one-sided and extreme. And does not give me confidence that, as EPA administrator, he would have any commitment to protecting public health now, or protecting the environment for future generations.
"Finally, Mr. President, I am concerned that Mr. Pruitt has not shown and does not have the proper respect for Tribal sovereignty. Oklahoma is home to 39 Tribes. Mr. Pruitt's litigation history as attorney general has consistently been anti-Tribe.
"As vice chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I pay special attention to nominees' record on Tribal issues, especially nominees for agencies who will deal with tribes on a government-to-government basis, like the EPA.
"As Oklahoma's top attorney, Mr. Pruitt routinely sought out ways to fight Tribal sovereignty, even all the way to the highest court in the land. In Dollar General Corp. v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Mr. Pruitt filed an amicus brief in support of a corporation that refused to submit to Tribal jurisdiction. Mr. Pruitt's side lost. This case is a prime example of Mr. Pruitt's misguided views of Tribes and their inherent sovereignty.
"Indian Country needs an EPA administrator who respects Tribal sovereignty. I am not convinced Mr. Pruitt does.
"Mr. President, my concerns about Mr. Pruitt's record on environmental policy aren't just because we disagree on policy. Mr. Pruitt has made his reputation litigating fiercely against the EPA's most important regulations to protect public health and the environment - regulations that comply with federal environmental laws, that are based on good science, that have taken years to prepare, and that have taken fair account of all stakeholders' input. I cannot support a nominee to lead this agency whose record is so hostile to the environment.
"For all these reasons, Mr. President, I must vote no on Mr. Pruitt's nomination to be EPA administrator.
"I yield the floor."
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