by Mal Leary
Maine Public news story
The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental activists are upset that the vote was allowed to happen before next week’s public release of emails between Pruitt and energy company executives.
The Senate voted 52-46 to confirm Pruitt after failed attempts to delay action on the vote. Lisa Pohlman, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says those senators that forced a vote may well live to regret their decision.
“We’re extremely dismayed and the future will show us that the senators that rushed this, they’re going to own this,” she says.
Pohlman expects that the emails, which a court has ordered released by next Tuesday, may show even more conflicts of interest for Pruitt than what’s already publicly known, such as the 14 lawsuits he brought against the agency that he now will lead.
Maureen Drouin, executive director of Maine Conservation Voters, says having Pruitt leading the EPA will hurt efforts to protect the environment, both in Maine and across the nation.
“[It’s] clear that Scott Pruitt will undermine critical protections for clean air, public health and reverse the progress we have made to combat climate change,” she says.
Maine’s two senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, voted against confirmation. But Collins did join with other Republicans in forcing the vote.
King supported the delay, and warned colleagues that they will have to explain their vote to future generations.
“It’s a dereliction of our responsibility, and we are going to look back on this moment and say, ‘How? What were we thinking?’” he says.
King says Pruitt built his career suing to block environmental rules and has called for weakening the EPA’s authority.
The White House says Pruitt could take office next week.