Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., released the following statement Friday after Senate Republicans pushed through the confirmation of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator nominee Scott Pruitt by a narrow margin.
The vote came a day after a federal judge ruled the Oklahoma attorney general's office must turn over thousands of emails related to Pruitt's communications with fossil fuel companies, which have a large presence in his state.
Pruitt, who was serving as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, has always been an opponent of federal environmental regulation, and has sued the EPA several times in his role as the Sooner State's AG.
Since his nomination, Pruitt has attracted condemnation from environmentalists and Democrats for suing the EPA multiple times and questioning the science behind climate change. Senate Democrats who have been seeking some of the same records tried to delay the confirmation vote, arguing that the documents requested could shed light on Pruitt's ties to industries he would be charged with regulating as EPA administrator.
Prior to the vote, Senate Democrats unsuccessfully tried to push through a measure that would extend debate over Pruitt's nomination to February 27 - when Congress returns from Presidents' Day recess - to give lawmakers sufficient time to review the emails.
One also has to wonder what Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota had to gain by voting in support of him.
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For his part, Mr Pruitt has said he intends to return the agency to its central mission of protecting the quality of the nation's air and water while respecting the role of states as primary enforcers of environmental laws. However, given Democrats' limited power to block nominees it seems likely Pruitt will be confirmed.
"Now that Mr. Pruitt is in office, I hope that his rigid stances and alignment with Oklahoma's oil and gas interests will evolve, particularly as he learns from EPA's hardworking and committed workforce". Susan Collins (Maine) was the only Republican who opposed the nomination. A former Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt is perhaps most noteworthy as a committed opponent of past EPA efforts to limit the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency even after an attempt by Sen.
Pruitt's appointment was confirmed by a 52-46 vote.
That would put the vote at 53-47 in favor of confirmation.
According to Democrats, a trove of emails are set to be released as early as Tuesday that could further elaborate on the new EPA director's relationship with those companies.